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Can You Get Coronavirus From Touch Screen Monitors at Fast Food Restaurants?

When you place your order at Taco Bell, the last thing you want to think about is contracting COVID-19.
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Self-service touch screen monitors are slowly becoming a more normal way to place an order at a fast food restaurant, but could they be responsible for transmitting coronavirus?

As of this morning, there are 231 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among 22 states in the U.S. and, as the number of people who become infected is only projected to increase, it made us think of things we do in our everyday life that may contribute to its rampant spread.

On Tuesday, Taco Bell announced that it activated a single-swipe feature, Veggie Mode, on its self-service kiosks nationwide, and that prompted us to question whether or not touch screen monitors—which are on kiosks in fast food restaurants all over the globe—could be a potential source of the disease.

We consulted Cedrina Calder, MD, Preventive Medicine Doctor, and health and wellness expert, to see if coronavirus can be transmitted through an object like touch screen monitors.

First of all, what's the difference between COVID-19 and coronavirus?

"A coronavirus is a family of viruses, there are different types of coronaviruses," Calder explains. "Coronaviruses can infect humans and animals causing respiratory illness. A new type of coronavirus has emerged and is causing the current coronavirus outbreak. This new virus causes a disease that has been named COVID-19."

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s. The family of viruses is easily identifiable under a microscope by the crown-like spikes on its surface. You may recall MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012 and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002, both of these diseases were caused by different strains of coronavirus.

COVID-19 first emerged in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China in 2019 and thus far, it's proven to be more easily transmissible than MERS and SARS.

There's still so much we don't know about COVID-19, but do we have a solid understanding of how it's transmitted?

Calder emphasizes that COVID-19 is a new disease and therefore, researchers are still in the midst of trying to understand it. According to the CDC, it appears to be most transmissible between people who are in close contact with each other. Currently, the benchmark of close contact extends up to about 6 feet.

"The thought is that the disease spreads through droplets," says Calder. "These droplets come from the mouth or nose of a person with COVID-19 when he or she coughs or sneezes. It is believed that others are infected when the droplets land on the mouth or nose of a person nearby or when a person nearby inhales the droplets."

Is it possible, then, to get COVID-19 from touch screen monitors at fast-food restaurants?

More and more touch screen monitors are popping up in fast-food restaurants around the world, and with so many people frequenting these places amid an outbreak of coronavirus, it makes us wonder if this puts people at higher risk of contracting the disease.

RELATED: Kim Kardashian & Kanye West Have Trouble With Those KFC Kiosks, Just Like the Rest of Us.

Think about this way. If someone with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, "respiratory droplets containing the virus can land on nearby surfaces or objects," says Calder.

Now, you can likely see where the problem arises.

"It is possible that you could get COVID-19 by touching surfaces or objects where the droplets have landed and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes," she adds. 

While we're just as excited as you are about testing out Taco Bell's Veggie Mode to see just how many vegetarian menu combinations we can make, it may be in everyone's best interest to hold off until the outbreak dies off.

You can keep up-to-date with COVID-19 advancements and precautions by following the CDC. But, in the meantime, check out 7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus While Dining Out so you can eat out and reduce your risk of contracting the disease to the best of your ability.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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