How COVID-19 Spreads
Although the first human cases of COVID-19 likely resulted from exposure to infected animals, infected people can spread SARS-CoV-2 to other people.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, including:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has SARS-CoV-2 on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (i.e., experiencing fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this type of asymptomatic transmission with this new coronavirus, but this is also not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to protect against it.
Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
- use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- when coughing or sneezing:
- cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
- dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- clean the following high-touch surfaces frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water):
- door handles
- bedside tables
- television remotes
If you have COVID-19, reduce contact with others
If you are sick, the following steps will help to reduce contact with others:
- stay at home and self-isolate (unless directed to seek medical care)
- if you must leave your home, wear a mask or cover your mouth and nose with tissues, and maintain a 2-metre distance from others
- avoid individuals in hospitals and long-term care centres, especially older adults and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems
- avoid having visitors to your home
- cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing
- have supplies delivered to your home instead of running errands
- supplies should be dropped off outside to ensure a 2-metre distance
Self-isolation means to:
- stay at home
- monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days
- avoid contact with others
If there are others in your home, this means to:
- stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom if possible
- keep at least 2 metres between yourself and other people
- keep interactions brief and wear a mask
- do not share personal items, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices
- at least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes
- avoid contact with individuals with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults
- avoid contact with pets if you live with other people that may also be touching them
If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing a mask when you are not ill may give a false sense of security. There is a potential risk of infection with improper mask use and disposal. They also need to be changed frequently.
However, your health care provider may recommend you wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 while you are seeking or waiting for care. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading when you cough or sneeze.