Concerns at the pump: Can you catch COVID-19 from getting gas?

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Lansing, Mich. (WLNS)– Gas pumps, like a number of other surfaces are frequently touched by many people and have been used as an example of a way that COVID-19 can spread.

The Michigan Petroleum Association, however, said in a press release that “Fueling your vehicle in Michigan is safer today than it has ever been, and those that imply motorists can get COVID-19 from a fuel dispenser nozzle are needlessly spreading fear.”

The question still remains… can you catch the Coronavirus at the pump?

Peter Gulick, a Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University said the short answer is yes.

“Where a lot of this originated from was they did a study about a month or so ago. They artificially put virus, coronavirus, or COVID-19 on different types of surfaces. They put it on plastic, stainless steel, cardboard and they wanted to see how long the virus would survive on those different environments. What they found was that on plastic and stainless steel they would survive over a day, over 24 hours. Sometimes up to 72 hours,” Gulick, also an expert on infectious disease said.

The chances are slim, but it is possible. Gulick said if an infected person sneezed into their hand and then touched the gas pump with that same hand, someone else who happened to come right after that and put their hand on that same pump, they could get the virus on their had.

“You’d almost have to have the perfect setting where all these events would have to occur in some kind of sequence for you to get that virus on your hands and then you would have to touch your face or some area of your body where it could get into your body,” Gulick said.

Gulick added that there has not be any evidence to show that the virus can travel through skin, or even open wounds. In order to become infected, the person would have to touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

The Michigan Petroleum Association wrote that there are increased efforts that gas stations and convenience store owners are putting into the continual cleaning of their operations to keep their customers and employees safe. They add public health experts say it is highly unlikely that a person could get COVID-19 from a gas pump nozzle handle.

When it comes to commonly touch surfaces, Gulick said it’s not just gas pumps that people should be thinking about.

“I think the reason the gas pump was brought up was so many people go to the gas stations. You could look at anything. The grocery store using the grocery carts you have to be careful too. Wipe off the grocery carts because people used that before you did or a door handle,” Gulick said.

If you have to get gas, Gulick reccommends using one of the paper towels often located near the pump to grab the handle. If there aren’t any available, he said you can use hand sanitizer when you’re finished pumping gas.

If you are concerned about touching objects that other people have touched, Gulick said there’s no reason to panic, adding, as long as you follow safety guidelines from medical experts like washing your hands often and not touching your face, that is the best way to protect yourself.

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