COVID-19 spreads more person-to-person than surface-to-person or animal-to-person, according to the latest update guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The person-to-person spread surprises no one, but the CDC has downgraded the risk of touching a contaminated surface, then infecting yourself by touching your nose, eyes or mouth. The newness of this disease — that’s why it’s called a “novel” coronavirus — cannot be understated. Remember, early in the crisis, when only healthcare professionals were wearing masks?
As the the science evolves, the CDC is learning that the virus spreads mainly from person to person:
- Between people within about 6 feet.
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The droplets can land in vulnerable facial areas of people nearby or even inhaled into the lungs. The CDC’s new guidance continues to emphasize the potential spread of people infected with COVID-19 who are not showing symptoms. Data so far suggest the virus spreads more efficiently than the seasonal flu but less efficiently than measles, a highly contagious virus that can live airborne for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The CDC is not dismissing the possibility that you can get COVID-19 from an infected surface, only that it “may be possible” after touching the face.
Animals, whether they know it or now, benefit from the new guidance:
- Animal-to-people spread: The risk is considered low.
- People-to-animal-spread: In a few cases worldwide, pets have been infected by close contact with infected humans.
Nothing in the CDC update changes how people should avoid being exposed to the virus:
- Maintain social distance, at least 6 feet from other people.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Alternatively, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
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