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COVID-19 most commonly spreads during close contact


  • People who are physically near (within 6 feet) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person are at greatest risk of infection.

  • When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. These droplets can range in size from larger droplets (some of which are visible) to smaller droplets. Small droplets can also form particles when they dry very quickly in the airstream.

  • Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

  • Respiratory droplets cause infection when they are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes, such as those that line the inside of the nose and mouth.

  • As the respiratory droplets travel further from the person with COVID-19, the concentration of these droplets decreases. Larger droplets fall out of the air due to gravity. Smaller droplets and particles spread apart in the air.

  • With passing time, the amount of infectious virus in respiratory droplets also decreases.


Protect yourself and others

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can take steps to slow the spread.

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others, whenever possible. This is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. This helps reduce the risk of spread both by close contact and by airborne transmission.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces and ensure indoor spaces are properly ventilated by bringing in outdoor air as much as possible. In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to infectious respiratory droplets.

  • Stay home and isolate from others when sick.

  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Pandemics can be stressful, especially when you are staying away from others. During this time, it’s important to maintain social connections and care for your mental health.


Content source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases

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