How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is thought to mainly spread through close contact from person-to-person: 

  • People who are within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person are at greatest risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets. When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. 

Other sources of transmission

COVID-19 can also sometimes be spread by airborne transmission, according to the CDC.

This can be caused by exposure to the virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours, says the CDC.

It’s also possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

However, this is not seen as a common source of transmission, according to the CDC.

 

Who is most at risk from COVID-19?

Most people can contract or transmit the virus and have few symptoms or recover quickly. Those most at-risk for severe symptoms are:

  • Older adults.
  • People with poor immune systems.
  • People with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease.
  • People with certain disabilities. These include those who have trouble understanding or practicing preventive measures or who cannot communicate their symptoms.
  • Pregnant people.

 

What can I do to minimize my risk?

We recommend that you follow the CDC's everyday guidelines to prevent the spread of any respiratory illness – including COVID-19. 

Wear a cloth face covering

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Everyone should wear a cloth face covering or mask when they go out in public. Preventing transmission of the virus works best when everyone is wearing cloth face coverings.

Keep it clean

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. You can use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Practice social distancing

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Wear a mask and maintain at least 6 ft of distance between yourself and others.
  • Avoid large gatherings, crowds, and indoor spaces with poor ventilation.

 

What should I do if I get sick?

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash hands often, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Wear a mask when you are around other people.

 

What should I do if someone in my home gets sick?

Monitor the patient’s symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider if symptoms worsen. Or, call 911 if the patient experiences any emergency warning signs for COVID-19.

If someone in your home is sick, that person should self-isolate. This should include having that person:

  • Sleep in a separate bedroom.
  • Use a separate restroom, if available.
  • Use separate household items. Never share utensils, cups, dishes, towels, bedding, toothpaste, etc.
  • Wear a mask if they must leave their room.
  • Cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash their hands often.

Be careful about disinfecting your home.

Monitor your health, too. Contact your healthcare provider if new symptoms start. Self-quarantine if you are a caregiver or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Read more guidelines from the CDC.