How does Covid-19 spread?

Article at a Glance

  • Covid-19 is highly contagious and spreads through small moisture particles from the nose and mouth.
  • Easily spread, even by people without any symptoms, Covid-19 is more easily transmitted than the annual flu.
  • Taking steps to lower the risk include wearing a mask and maintaining a six-foot distance from those outside your household.

The novel Corona Virus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, is the highly contagious virus at the center of the 2020 global pandemic. Understanding how the virus spreads is the first step in taking appropriate safety precautions.

COVID-19 is spread mostly through small moisture particles called aerosols that come from the nose and mouth.  It can be spread when a person talks, breathes, sings, yells, coughs, or sneezes.  In fact, singing and yelling are some of the “best” ways to transmit the virus because of the prolonged exhalation of aerosols. The louder the sounds, the more air and aerosols are exhaled. This makes activities such as indoor concerts and sporting events riskier than events held outdoors.

These virus particles are inhaled into the nose, mouth, or lungs and directly cause infection. In some cases, these particles can find their way into the eyes and cause infection that way. Particles that land on the face or on surfaces can be transferred on the hands by touching the contaminated skin and surfaces. If hands aren’t washed and/or sanitizer isn’t applied, those particles can be rubbed into the eyes, nose, or mouth to cause infection. Transmission from contaminated surfaces is rare, though, and the risk lowers the longer the virus has been on the surface. Here are some examples of common surfaces and how long the virus can live on them.

  • Glass – 5 days.
  • Wood – 4 days.
  • Plastic & stainless-steel – 3 days.
  • Cardboard – 24 hours.
  • Copper surfaces – 4 hours.

Recent studies suggest that Coronavirus could spread beyond 6 feet and linger in the air for hours. And, since it doesn’t need to be coughed or sneezed into the air, simple talking or laughing is enough to send the particles airborne. A person without symptoms can easily transmit the virus without being aware of the danger.

Wearing masks is only effective in reducing the spread of the virus if they are worn properly.  If someone who doesn’t show symptoms isn’t covering their nose with their mask, then any air being exhaled through the nose has the chance of carrying aerosolized particles.

The average infected person will spread Coronavirus to 2-2.5 people, bringing the infection rate to 3-3.5. If those people then infect an additional 2-2.5 people, and those people infect an additional 2-2.5 and so on, the virus is contracted and spread again before the first infected person even know they’re sick. Compared to the annual flu, which spreads to 1-2.3 people on average, COVID-19 is more easily transmitted.

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