China’s disease control authority said on Saturday that contact with packages of frozen food contaminated by the new live coronavirus could cause infection, news reported to Reuters.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came to that conclusion when, during efforts to track the virus in an outbreak last week in the city of Qingdao, it detected and isolated live coronavirus on the outside of a cod package frozen.
The discovery, unprecedented in the world, suggests that it is possible that the virus is transmitted over long distances through frozen products, the agency said.
Two dockers in Qingdao, initially diagnosed with asymptomatic infections in September, took the virus to the hospital during the quarantine due to insufficient disinfection and protection, leading to another 12 infections in the hospital, officials said last week.
However, the CDC has no solid evidence that the two workers in Qingdao contracted the virus directly from the packaging, rather than contracting the virus elsewhere and then contaminating the food packaging they handled, he stressed. Jin Dong-Yan, a virology expert professor at the University of Hong Kong.
The CDC warns, therefore, that this is a possibility but that no evidence has been found of any consumer having contracted the virus from contact with frozen foods and that the risk of this happening remains very low.
However, recommended that workers who handle, process and sell frozen products should avoid direct skin contact with products that may be contaminated. Employees should not touch their mouths or noses before removing contaminated work clothes, they should wash their hands and test regularly, the agency said.
Before the CDC’s latest discoveries, genetic traces of the virus were found in some samples taken from frozen food or food packaging, but the virus was low and no live virus was isolated, the agency said. Only live viruses can infect people.