As tenacious and pervasive as the coronavirus at the root of our long-running pandemic appears to be, SARS-CoV-2 has not only a host of strengths aiding its spread, but it also hides numerous vulnerabilities that could be exploited to help contain and defeat the deadly pathogen. Aside from lasting for an unfortunately long time in cold conditions, the virus is also less like Clark Kent and more like the Wicked Witch of the West, in that it is vulnerable to both sunlight and ordinary water.

A new study has found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive on frozen meat and fish for up to three weeks, with the study’s researchers discovering that the presence of the virus found wasn’t just remnants of its genetic material, but viable “live” examples of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that could still infect a host after being thawed. This discovery could explain the emergence of new outbreaks in places such as Vietnam, New Zealand and parts of China, despite those regions not having experienced new cases for months

The study involved inoculating 500 tiny cubes of salmon, chicken and pork obtained from supermarkets in Singapore with SARS-CoV-2 viral particles. The samples were then stored at 3 different temperatures (4°C, -20°C, and -80°C), and thawed at various times after their initial inoculation (1, 2, 5, 7, 14 and 21 days) to test how the virus fared under the various conditions. The researchers found that the amount of the virus capable of infecting a host remained the same regardless of not only what temperature the samples were stored at, but the amount of live virus also remained the same over the full three weeks for each temperature group.

The researchers hypothesize that workers in meat processing plants could be inadvertently infecting–and being infected by–the product they are working with; indeed, meat packing facilitates are prone to worker crowding, poor ventilation, lack of PPE, and shouting due to elevated ambient noise levels, making the facilities hazardous in terms of viral transmission.

The researchers also point out that this is simply a hypothesis: this potential source of viral contamination hasn’t been proven to be a viable mode of transmission, and the infection risk to consumers is low, as the virus would be destroyed by the heat involved in cooking the food.

Toward that end, a Russian study has found that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus doesn’t hold up too well in an environment commonly found around the globe: ordinary water. As one would expect, boiling water destroys the virus immediately, but the study also found that ordinary, room temperature water will deactivate 90 percent of the virus over the course of 24 hours, with that number increasing to 99.9 percent after 72 hours.

It should be noted that this study appears to remain unpublished, with the study’s findings instead announced by the Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor), Dr. Anna Popova, in a report to President Vladimir Putin on the agency’s monitoring efforts of coastal sea water, swimming pools, and sources of drinking water.

Unfortunately, it was not specified as to what was meant by “ordinary water”–presumably this refers to chlorinated tap water, as the chemical treatment would degrade the virus’s structures, although other types of water could have been used for the study. On a positive note, Dr. Popova said that no major risk of waterborne infection could be found through their analyses.

And finally, in a pandemic that can seem oppressively dark at times, a little sunshine can help alleviate the danger: in an Instagram interview with actor Matthew McConaughey, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that ordinary sunlight can destroy the virus. “That’s one of the reasons why outside in the sun when you are interacting… That is much, much better than being inside… Outside is always better than inside.”

Fauci was referring to a June study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology that found that “90% or more of SARS-CoV-2 virus will be inactivated after being exposed (to the summer sun) for 11 to 34 minutes,” and that “99% of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated within the two hours period around solar noon during summer in most US cities located south of latitude 43 degrees north.”

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for this interesting article. I suspect that not just frozen meats and seafoods, but also frozen vegetables and fruits should all be assumed to pose a potential transmission risk for COVID-19. Many farm “packing sheds” and other food processing buildings for newly harvested fruits/vegetables require employees to work in very close proximity to each other. I see that in Northern California’s Salinas valley when I drive thru there this year on the 101 freeway. For over 10 years, I have bought few frozen food items anyway because there’s always some nutrient loss from freezing; for example, Vitamin E, folic acid and folate are almost 100% destroyed when any green vegetables are frozen. US consumers are mostly unaware of that problem since the USDA does not require such nutrients to be listed on the package nutrition label.

  2. Starting in September 2020, best practices in US home kitchens might include wearing rubber kitchen (the thicker non-disposable type) gloves, a mask, and safety goggles when working with frozen food items. If so, the safety goggles should have any goggle ventilation “air holes” taped over. This procedure is unnecessary for any foods you prepared and froze at your home, because you already know that proper viral decontamination of those foods has been completed.

    1. Yes, the FIP vaccine has been used for cats for awhile now, but it is not always effective for the cat. No guarantee that the cat will not still get it as any vet will tell you.

  3. When I eat meat, I only eat meat from a local farmer, but it is usually frozen and vacuum sealed and bison from Northstar bison in Wisconsin (I think) where they kill the bison in the field and process it in their facility. I don’t eat any meat that has gone through a big slaughterhouse process. That situation is not only inhumane, and worse now than ever sadly because of easing restrictions on the amount of animals killed per minute, but it is a horrible situation energetically and that just brings disease. We need to think about where our food comes from. I would not eat meat at all but I have a love for the type of farming that my suppliers do and I want to support their livelihood. Also, I tend to get waaay too spacey if I don’t. As a type 0 neg blood type, I need that protein in that form. I have too many histamine reactions and digestive issues with strictly plant based I have learned the hard way. Which brings me to my final point, which is that I just saw today that a higher percentage of neanderthal DNA is correlated with severe cases of COVID, which makes sense in terms of evolution and adaptation.

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