GREENSBORO, N.C. — 'Tis the season for Christmas and holiday cards, but before you seal your greeting with a kiss -- or, more literally, a lick -- let's VERIFY.
Good Morning Show director Jeffrey Elliott posed this question:
"Hey, Meghann, can you VERIFY if there's a risk of spreading Coronavirus by licking a Christmas card envelope shut?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Institutes of Health study on COVID-19 and surfaces
- Chris Ohl, MD - infectious diseases physician at Wake Forest Baptist Health
Infectious diseases physician, Dr. Chris Ohl, heard Elliott's question and said it was the first time he had been asked about licking envelopes. He explained he does not believe anyone has studied COVID-19 on envelopes, but there has been research on similar items.
"So, for other paper products or cardboard products, viral persistence is pretty short and doesn't last that long. The longest it can last is on other surfaces that are smooth, such as stainless steel, glass, etcetera. And, actually, most of the information we've gotten in the last three to six months is (the) virus that's on surfaces is not nearly as important for transmission as directly from person to person," Ohl said.
A study published in the National Institutes of Health this summer looked at the virus on various surfaces. It found two strains of COVID-19 can live on aerosol, plastic and stainless steel and can spread infection if someone touches those items and then touches his or her face. The virus can live on cardboard for a maximum of 24 hours but has no infection capability on that surface during that time, per the research. The CDC concludes touching surfaces is not the main means of transmission.
Ohl deduced, "So, putting all that together, I would say that licking an envelope would be OK, and for the person opening the envelope on the other end (it) would be a very low risk thing to do."
Can you spread COVID-19 through licking an envelope? Experts conclude this claim is predominantly false. But, if you want to be extra cautious, Dr. Ohl suggested sealing envelopes with a wet sponge, tape or sticker, instead.
Oh, and one last tip...
"One thing I do know from watching A Christmas Story the other night," Dr. Ohl joked, "is don't be like Flick and lick the flag pole in the winter time."
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