I have seen this subject pop up on aquatic social media groups a lot lately with a mixed response, some people not giving a hoot, while others are insisting that if you purchase from China you are guaranteed to catch the virus. Based in China and witnessing the toll of the virus first hand I figured I would give my two cents on the subject.
Coronavirus is a generic term for a range of viruses from HCoV-229E which causes the common cold to MERS. If you Google how long can ‘’Coronavirus’’ live outside the body you will get a range of answers. This is because it is different for each strain, with some websites stating that Coronavirus can remain on surfaces for up to 25-28 days, this is true but only in Veterinary strains. Each strain of coronavirus has its own attributes, however, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is still not fully understood but based on what we do know the chances of inheriting SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) from a package is highly unlikely, not only from China but most of Asia.
From past research based on SARS-CoV the cousin of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the lifespan of the virus on an object or surface is a max of 9 days at room temperature, varying depending on the object/surface material. Temperatures over 30 degrees significantly shorten the lifespan in all cases. Let's say your package had been exposed to a COVID-19 carrier the virus would be inactive long before you receive the package. Not only because a cardboard box or a sponge filter is a very much unsuitable host for the virus, but studies carried out by researchers from Wuhan University have found that the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) like its cousin does not fare well under temperature fluctuations, which are a sure thing for a package coming from anywhere in the world.
A lot of people are under the impression that as soon as they open a box from Asia that may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), it puffs up into their face the moment they open it, and that’s it … You are sick, which is baloney. The virus is airborne but not inhalation like anthrax and becomes inactive in under an hour in the air. If the highly unlikely event the virus miraculously survives its journey on the packaging the receiver would have to touch the package and then expose themselves by using their hands to eat food, pick their nose (no judgment here), rub their eyes or similar. So it is just a matter of giving your hands a wash after touching a package from Asia or give it and its contents a quick spray with medical 75% ethanol which makes the virus inactive less than 3 minutes if there is a concern to do so.
I have seen the most common reply used on social media aquatic groups when the question is ask ‘’’ Is it safe to order from China/Asia? ‘’ No don’t!! I heard that someone got sick from a package from China. Here is the thing, if you research this person getting sick from a package, they simply don’t exist, even WHO will tell you to date there is no evidence that this has happened. I am not discrediting that it has happened but from what I have researched and personal experience the chances are just near impossible. I feel the main phrase in the common reply is ‘’ I Heard’’, and believe this mystery person that got sick from a package from China is no more than an echo being reflected around.
Another factor of the unlikely hood of catching SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) from aquatic equipment ordered from China, is the chance of someone having the COVID-19 that is handling your products is slim. 99.99% of the cases in China are from Hubei which is now in quarantine and no exports will be leaving there while it's in place. The 2nd to the epicenter is Guangdong which has had 1600 cases in a population of over 120 million people. Since the epidemic Grade I emergency was issued at the start of the month, cases outside the epicenter have dropped significantly, to double digits, the city Foshan which we are based has had 1 new case in two weeks of a population of 8 million and a total of 120 cases, so the numbers of the infected outside of Hubei are minuscule.
There are many precautions in place to prevent the virus from spreading. At Castle Dawn Aquatics for example. We have set up a clean zone where no staff members are allowed in without protection wear, all product packaging and packing materials are disinfected (75%> Ethanol) and all staff members must have not left Foshan in the last 30 days. We do temperature checks each on each other every morning, and we have closed the shop to the general public till further notice, only online orders, or customers can use our pick up box outside the shop. These kinds of precautions may seem over the top but we do it for our customer’s peace of mind. On top of this courier companies are now spraying packages with ethanol, sodium hypochlorite, and hydrogen Peroxide before export which all make the virus inactive within minutes.
I have also noticed people on social media aquatic groups warning others not to buy fish that may have been imported from China as they can carry the virus. Personally I think this is nonsense but there is some truth in it. Certain fish can be carriers of a coronavirus and it has been found in marine mammals such as Orcas.
I believe the idea of ornamental fish carrying the virus started because ground zero was a Wuhan seafood market, indicating the virus must of been passed by something aquatic, but research shows the virus shares 96% of its genome sequence with coronavirus found in Bats. However, COVID-19 also shares a 39 base insertion found in Myripristis murdjan (Pinecone Soliderfish) which are commonly found in the Chinese food markets, as well as our hobby. This has caused speculation that the virus may have originated in bats, made its way to Myripristis murdjan (Pinecone Soliderfish) then mutated to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Even if the impossible event an imported ornamental fish was a carrier of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the fish in question would need to be consumed in order for the virus to take hold of the host. So, unless you are a connoisseur of ornamental fish the chances of catching the virus in this manner are zero.
Myripristis murdjan (Pinecone Soliderfish)
So in my opinion based on what we currently know about SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and SARS-CoV (SARS) it is perfectly safe to purchase aquatic products and ornamental fish from China/Asia. On that note, If you happen to open a package from us and it smells like Jameson Irish whiskey, it is because we have run out of ethanol disinfectant and I had to break into my first aid kit my gran sent from Ireland, she is insistent it will kill any virus!
This article is my own opinion based on my experiences, research, and common knowledge. I am not a scientist or alike. The article is not intended to upset, trigger or question any person's experiences or thoughts on the subject. The word person has been used as a general term and is not intended to detract from anyone's gender, pronouns or orientation.