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How is COVID-19 Transmitted?

How is COVID-19 Transmitted?

When it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the best protection hinges on arming ourselves with the right information. And one of the most important facts is knowing: How is Covid-19 transmitted?

Being informed about the virus empowers us to better protect ourselves as well as our loved ones.

And knowing how the virus spreads is crucial. Why? Because any COVID-19 preventive measures will largely depend on controlling how it transmits from person to person.

Based on the information that we have[1] about the virus, the outbreak started from Wuhan province in China.

But how is COVID-19 transmitted, and how can we slow the further spread of the virus? Here’s what we currently know.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

Based on studies that have been conducted on COVID-19, the primary means of transmission for the virus is through respiratory droplet transmission.

Droplets expelled through sneezing, coughing, or speaking can carry the virus, and infect other people who are within close proximity (about 6 feet or 1.5 meters).

Numerous governments have also been pushing for social distancing, or avoiding close contact with people. This is in order to help control the further spread of disease and effectively lower the number of infections.

One way that authorities can track and manage those who might have been infected is through what’s called “contact tracing” and giving specific quarantine instructions. Contact tracing is simply identifying who might have been in contact with an infected person, as well as any other persons that they might have been in contact with.

This helps them identify any possible carriers of the virus, and if necessary, isolate or quarantine them in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

Aside from droplets, there’s also the possibility that surfaces that have been exposed or contaminated by these droplets can cause infection.

This happens when a person touches a surface or object that has been contaminated, and then touches either their nose, eyes, or their mouth.

The virus usually gets on these surfaces through saliva, and can stay active for hours. Some studies have found that it can remain for up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces, and 2-3 days on plastic and steel.

Another potential source of transmission is through feces, or what’s called fecal-oral transmission. Researchers have found that COVID-19 can also infect a person’s stomach.

However, according to a joint WHO-China report, fecal-oral transmission did not appear to be a significant factor in the spread of infection.

Is COVID-19 an airborne virus?

how is covid-19 transmitted

Another question that people ask aside from “How is COVID-19 transmitted?” is the potential for it to be transmitted through airborne means[2]

Airborne transmission means that the virus can stay suspended in the air. Examples of airborne diseases are tuberculosis, measles, influenza, and chickenpox.

An airborne infection can potentially infect more people, since anyone who breathes in the contaminated air can get infected. That’s why a number of studies have been conducted in order to find out if airborne transmission is indeed possible when it comes to COVID-19. However, the results haven’t been conclusive.

A recent study has shown that under certain ideal conditions in a hospital, the virus can survive in the air for at least 3 hours. We still don’t know a lot about the virus, but scientists and researchers are learning more and more about it everyday.

In fact, the WHO is recommending that health-care facilities be extra careful when it comes to their procedures. This is to ensure that any potential airborne infection can be avoided.

How can people protect themselves from COVID-19?

Now that we know the answer to “How is COVID-19 transmitted,” another question that a lot of people ask is “How can we protect ourselves?”

One of the best things that a person can do to prevent the spread of the virus is to stay indoors, and avoid going out as much as possible. Since the virus can easily spread from person to person, minimizing contact with people can greatly reduce the chances of acquiring or spreading the infection. This is, by far, the best way to combat the virus and to slow its spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important for anyone who might have touched contaminated surfaces. Using alcohol or hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% can also help disinfect a person’s hands.

It’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, since if there are any virus droplets on your hands, then you can easily get infected if you touch your face.

What should you do if you come into contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive?

  • Undergo a COVID-19 test
  • Go on self-quarantine, limiting contact with others
  • Practice social distancing within the home
  • Practice handwashing
  • Limiting contact with those who have been sick
  • Take steps to boost their immunity

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Study reveals how long COVID-19 remains infectious on cardboard, metal and plastic: People may acquire coronavirus through air and by touching contaminated surfaces — ScienceDaily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200320192755.htm, Accessed October 28, 2020

How Coronavirus Spreads | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html, Accessed October 28, 2020

How to Protect Yourself & Others | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html, Accessed October 28, 2020

Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission
on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) , https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf, Accessed October 28, 2020

Coronavirus: the disease Covid-19 explained, https://multimedia.scmp.com/infographics/news/china/article/3047038/wuhan-virus/index.html, Accessed October 28, 2020

WHO considers ‘airborne precautions’ for medical staff after study shows coronavirus can survive in air, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/16/who-considers-airborne-precautions-for-medical-staff-after-study-shows-coronavirus-can-survive-in-air.html, Accessed October 28, 2020

Handwashing – Clean Hands Save Lives | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html, Accessed October 28, 2020

COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin — ScienceDaily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm, Accessed October 28, 2020

Detection of Novel Coronavirus by RT-PCR in Stool Specimen from Asymptomatic Child, China – Volume 26, Number 6—June 2020 – Emerging Infectious Diseases journal – CDC, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/6/20-0301_article, Accessed October 28, 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara on May 08, 2020
Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Doratan, M.D.