How COVID-19 Spreads
COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected.
COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
- Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
- Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
- Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.
Many viruses are constantly changing, including the virus that causes COVID-19. These changes occur over time and can lead to the emergence of variants that may have new characteristics. Vaccines continue to protect people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying.
Protect Yourself and Others
Anyone infected with COVID-19 can spread it, even if they do NOT have symptoms.
Important Ways to Slow the Spread of COVID-19
- Get vaccinated and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. Find a vaccine.
- Know when to wear a well-fitted mask to help protect yourself and others.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Test to prevent spread to others.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
What You Need to Know
- In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors.
- If you are sick and need to be around others, or are caring for someone who has COVID-19, wear a mask.
- If the COVID-19 Community Level where you live is
- Wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.
- If you are at risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about wearing masks indoors in public.
- If you live with or will gather with someone at risk for severe illness, wear a mask when indoors with them.
- If you are 2 or older, wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk (including in K-12 schools and other community settings).
- If you are at risk for severe illness, wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection.
COVID-19 and Animals
COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. Pet cats and dogs can sometimes become infected after close contact with people with COVID-19. Learn what you should do if you have pets.
Food and Water
There is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19. Follow food safety guidelines when handling and cleaning fresh produce. Do not wash produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant or any other chemical.
There is also no current evidence that people can get COVID-19 by drinking water. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
Natural Bodies of Water (Lakes, Oceans, Rivers)
There are no scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in lakes, oceans, rivers, or other natural bodies of water.
Genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in untreated wastewater (also referred to as “sewage”). There is no information to date that anyone has become sick with COVID-19 because of direct exposure to treated or untreated wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants use chemical and other disinfection processes to remove and degrade many viruses and bacteria. The virus that causes COVID-19 is inactivated by the disinfection methods used in wastewater treatment.