BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s disease control authority said on Saturday that contact with frozen food packaging contaminated with live coronavirus could cause infection.
The conclusion came when the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected and isolated live coronavirus on the outer packaging of frozen cod while trying to detect the virus in an outbreak reported last week in Qingdao city, the agency said in its website.
The finding, one of the world’s first, suggests that it is possible for the virus to be transmitted over long distances via frozen goods, it said.
Two port workers in Qingdao, who were initially diagnosed with asymptomatic infections in September, brought the virus to a breast hospital under quarantine due to inadequate disinfection and protection, leading to a further 1
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However, the CDC’s latest statement does not show solid evidence that the two workers in Qingdao caught the virus directly from the packaging, rather than infecting the virus elsewhere and then contaminating the food packaging they handled, said Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist. professor at the University of Hong Kong.
The CDC said that no incidence had been found of any consumer who got the virus by having contact with frozen foods, and the risk of this happening remained very low.
Nevertheless, it was advised that workers handling, processing and selling frozen products should avoid direct skin contact with products that may be contaminated.
Staff should not touch their mouths or noses before taking off work clothes that may be contaminated without washing their hands and should take samples regularly, the agency said.
Prior to the CDC’s latest findings, genetic traces of the virus were found in some samples taken from frozen foods or food packaging, but the amount of virus was low and no live virus was isolated, the agency said.
Only live 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)