May 13, 2020/Infectious Disease

How Easy Is It to Transmit Coronavirus?

The short answer from experts

Father squirts antibacterial hand sanitizer in daughter's hands.

How easy is it to transmit the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

A: Unfortunately, it’s very easy to transmit the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.


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A study of the outbreak that occurred on the Diamond Princess cruise ship showed that an infected person would cause an average of 2.28 more cases. That’s fewer than the measles (12 to 18 cases) but higher than the seasonal flu (0.9 to 2.1 cases).

More importantly, viral shedding (the process of spreading the virus) can occur up to five days before symptoms even appear. And asymptomatic shedding (spreading the virus even if symptoms aren’t present or before they appear) may account for up to 60% of cases.

Transmission of the virus occurs via droplets that are expelled through the mouth or nose, like mucous or saliva, and can be easily spread through actions like sneezing and coughing. These viral particles can land directly on the mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes) of another person.


Indirect transmission is also possible, either from droplets landing on the skin of another person who then touches his or her mucous membranes or from touching a surface that has been infected. That’s why you should wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face as much as possible.

The virus can live on surfaces for one to several hours, though how long the virus survives depends on the surface material. For that reason, surfaces that are touched frequently should be cleaned with antiviral solutions at least every 24 hours.

Infectious disease specialists Ryan Miller, DO, and Kristin Englund, MD


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