BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s disease control authority said Saturday that contact with frozen food packaging contaminated with the new coronavirus could lead to infection.
The conclusion came when the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found an isolated living coronavirus in the outer wrapper of frozen cod while trying to track the virus in an outbreak reported last week in Qingdao city, said of the agency about this website.
The search, a world first, suggests it is possible for the virus to be transmitted over long distances by fixed products, it said.
Two Qingdao port workers who were first diagnosed as asymptomatic infections in September carried the virus to a chest hospital while quarantined due to inadequate disinfection and protection, leading to another 12 infections associated with hospital, authorities said last week.
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However, the latest CDC statement does not provide strong evidence that the two workers in Qingdao caught the virus directly from the wrapper, rather than contracting the virus from elsewhere and then contaminating the food packaging they touched, said Jin Dong-Yan, a virology professor at the University of Hong Kong.
The CDC said no sample was found of any consumer contracting the virus through contact with frozen foods and the risk of it occurring remained very low.
It does, however, advise that workers handling, processing and selling frozen products should avoid direct skin contact with products that may be contaminated.
Personnel should not touch their mouths or noses before undressing work clothes that may be contaminated without washing their hands and should be checked regularly, the agency said.
Prior to the CDC’s latest discovery, genetic markers of the virus were found in some samples taken from frozen food or food packaging, but the virus volume was low and no virus was isolated, the agency said .
Only living viruses can infect humans, while samples containing dead viruses can also test positive for virus traces, Jin said.
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe; Editing by David Holmes)