How is Coronavirus Transmitted?

Here is what we know about Coronavirus transmission

There is still a lot we need to learn about COVID-19. The CDC publishes regularly an update on this. The virus often affects the respiratory tract leading to lung infection (pneumonia). It can be spread from person-to-person, mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. The spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts. While person-to-person transmission usually occurs when someone has symptoms, reports indicate that nCoV transmission can also happen from a person without symptoms.

How easily can COVID-19 be spread?

The majority of patients with COVID-19 present with mild illness, with approximately 20% of cases progressing to severe disease. How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s important to know this in order to better understand the risk associated with this virus. While CDC considers this is a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 to the general American public is considered low at this time.

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying.

Commonly reported symptoms:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

Less common symptoms include:

  • myalgia
  • fatigue
  • sputum production
  • confusion
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • diarrhea
  • nausea/vomiting

The CDC believes as of 1/29/2020 that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses. The virus can be transmitted even before a person has any symptoms.

Does wearing a face mask help prevent infection?

You see people in China wearing face masks everywhere all the time, however, it's unclear whether a face mask should be worn by healthy people to prevent infection. But do they work? The answer is not that simple. There isn’t much high-quality scientific evidence on whether masks are an effective safeguard outside health care settings, where experts generally agree that they reduce risks. While wearing a face mask can slow the spread of disease when worn by sick people, the masks do little when worn by healthy people. The masks can prevent large respiratory droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs from entering your mouth and nose, but gaps around the mouth can still let unfiltered air in. What’s more, people often misuse the masks, or move them aside.

The best way to prevent an infection with coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly with soap and to avoid touching your face.

How to protect yourself from Coronaviruses and the flu

Here is what the CDC recommends:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people outside of your home.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover (eg face mask) when they have to go out in public, 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Do not gather in groups.
  • lean and disinfect

Recommendations are updated regularly. Read more here about the most recent CDC recommendations.

If you are sick and especially if you have fever, let your doctor know right away.

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