The prospect of a Novel Coronavirus pandemic alarms business leaders today. Companies that attend mail equipment sales sometimes receive high volumes of incoming mail. During recent years, many mailroom managers have grown sensitive to the potential for disease transmission via mail processing. Does Novel Coronavirus pose a health threat for workers in mailrooms? This brief article explores this question.
A New Virus
During January, 2020, disturbing news media reports raised awareness around the globe about a flu-like illness designated as “2019-nCoV”. This disease created a medical emergency on the Chinese mainland. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) indicates on its website that 2019-nCoV represents a novel form of coronavirus.
A Respiratory Illness
For many years, various strains of coronavirus have infected veterinary patients, rarely sickening people. However, 2019-nCoV causes a spectrum of upper respiratory tract and pneumonia-like symptoms. The new strain of virus has produced severe illness in some patients and resulted in some fatalities, while leaving others with only mild symptoms.
Responding Vigorously to 2019-nCoV
The Communist Chinese government shut down mass transit systems serving Wuhan, the apparent disease epicenter, effectively imposing a quarantine on a wide area. Several airlines have temporarily suspended passenger service to the Chinese mainland through March. Additionally, the U.S. government has restricted the entry of foreign visitors who spent time in China within the past 10 days. It also implemented medical screenings for anyone returning to the United States from the Peoples Republic of China.
Seeking to Prevent a Pandemic
Concern about the possibility of a pandemic grew when it became apparent the new disease can spread through person-to-person transmission (much like influenza). Close contact with an infected person may pose a risk of passing the illness through airborne respiratory droplets. The CDC indicates it is studying the new virus and the way it spreads. The government agency has obtained the genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV. It performs accurate testing to confirm suspected cases.
On the bright side, medical experts don’t believe handling mail or packages imposes a significant risk of transmitting the new coronavirus. They note that even if an ill person sneezes or coughs on a mailing, the virus would not survive for an extended period of time during shipping. Practicing frequent hand washing may help prevent the transmission of the illness.