Know How it Spreads

There is currently no vaccine to prevent corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

How to prevent the spread 

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 2 meters (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

Follow the guidance outlined above.

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.

Everyone Should

Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home as much as possible.Put distance between yourself and other people.

Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.

Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. Do NOT use a face mask meant for a healthcare worker. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes

If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

Clean AND disinfect frequently touch surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectant will work.

What to do if you are sick

Stay home except to get medical care

Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas. Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency. Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Separate yourself from other people and pets in your home

As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a cloth face covering.                            

Monitor your symptoms

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever and cough. Trouble breathing is a more serious symptom that means you should get medical attention. Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. Your local health authorities may give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you develop any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor

Call ahead. Many medical visits for routine care are being postponed or done by phone. If you have a medical appointment that cannot be postponed, call your doctor’s office, and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

If you are sick wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth

You should wear a cloth face covering, over your nose and mouth if you must be around other people or animals, including pets (even at home). You don’t need to wear the cloth face covering if you are alone. If you can’t put on a cloth face covering (because of trouble breathing for example), cover your coughs and sneezes in some other way. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people. This will help protect the people around you.

Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical grade face masks are reserved for healthcare workers and some first responders. You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandanna. 

Clean your hands often

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid sharing personal household items

Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. Wash these items thoroughly after using them with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.

Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday

High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use household cleaners and disinfectants. Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.

Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product. Most EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.

How to discontinue home isolation

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions: If you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
AND
other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
AND
at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

If you will be tested to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

You no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
AND 
other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
AND
 you received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Your doctor will follow CDC guidelines 

In all cases, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and state and local health departments. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.

Data in this article credited toNational Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)Division of Viral Diseaseswho.int