13:42 PM

Research Roundup: How COVID-19 Spreads and How to Stop It



Discover the latest science on protecting yourself – from how the virus passes through the air to how long people may be contagious.

Until there’s a vaccine against COVID-19, one of the best defenses we have is information about how the virus passes from one person to another. Get up to speed on the latest guidelines and science:

Airborne transmission confirmed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently revised its COVID-19 guidelines to include that the coronavirus can linger in the air for minutes to hours and travel farther than six feet. Previously, it was reported that COVID-19 was mainly spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes, sending respiratory droplets about six feet into the air. It’s still believed this is the main cause of infection.

However, in certain circumstances – namely within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation or when an infected person was breathing heavily while singing or exercising – airborne transmission can help explain some infections that didn’t result from close contact. In any case, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and avoiding large indoor gatherings are the best ways to avoid airborne transmission.

When people with COVID-19 stop being contagious. If you think or know you’ve had COVID-19, several factors influence when you can be around other people without passing the virus, according to the CDC. If you’ve had symptoms, you should wait 10 days since symptoms appeared, be fever-free for 24 hours and ensure other COVID-19 symptoms are improving (note: the CDC says that most people don’t require testing to make this decision). If you had no symptoms, you only need to wait 10 days. If you’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, however, you should isolate at home for 14 days after your latest exposure.

COVID-19 can survive on skin for nine hours. A new study out of Japan confirms the importance of washing your hands or using sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The research found that the coronavirus can remain alive on skin for about nine hours, in contrast to the influenza virus, which can linger for only about two hours. Both viruses were quickly inactivated on skin 15 seconds after using hand sanitizer that was 80% ethanol. The study didn’t measure how much COVID-19 virus would need to be present to give someone an infection from contact with contaminated skin.

Cleaning and disinfecting are key to reducing the risk of exposure. To make sure your home and workplace are as safe as possible from the virus, continue to keep surfaces clean, per the updated CDC guidelines. The CDC provides a framework for when to use just soap and water and when to use EPA-approved disinfectants, as well as advice for specific surfaces like faucets or carpet. To learn more about how long the virus can survive on various surfaces, check out this research.