Coronavirus on surfaces: what’s the real risk?

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(Stephanie Watson/ WebMD) — In March, concerns over the coronavirus surviving on surfaces fueled a disinfectant shopping frenzy that left store shelves bare of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. A video featuring a Michigan doctor sanitizing his groceries one by one captured more than 26 million views on YouTube.

With no signs of the coronavirus pandemic letting up, protecting yourself from germs is as important as ever. But we now know that the virus that causes COVID-19 mainly spreads through respiratory droplets in the air. So can you really catch COVID-19 from touching a cereal box you bought at the supermarket, or a package delivered to your door?

It is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely, says Dean Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “You’d need a unique sequence of events,” he says. First, someone would need to get a large enough amount of the virus on a surface to cause infection. Then, the virus would need to survive long enough for you to touch that surface and get some on your hands. Then, without washing your hands, you’d have to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. (…)

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