The CDC suggests you stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who appears sick to minimize the risk of getting the new coronavirus. The virus passes primarily through saliva and mucus, which can travel from a person's nose or mouth about 3 to 5 feet, depending on the size of the droplet. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Six feet. That's how far the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests you stay from anyone who might be sick. The agency is recommending that people avoid "close contact" with anyone showing flu-like symptoms. Specifically, the CDC defines close contact as "being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time." That's because the viral particles travel between people in tiny droplets or saliva and mucus, which typically spread 3 to 5 feet. If a sick person sneezes, coughs, or eats within that distance of someone healthy, the particles could land on them; if the particles enter the person's eyes, nose, or mouth, the person can become infected. In the past, infection-control professionals have defined "close contact" as 3 feet — that was the CDC's recommended distance for people during the SARS outbreak. But the agency has doubled that for the coronavirus, since it is possible for droplets to travel up to 6 feet. How the coronavirus spreads Scientists think the new coronavirus is carried in liquid droplets more than 5 micrometers in diameter. The common cold, which is also a coronavirus, travels in these big, wet droplets, too. Scientists aren't sure whether the coronavirus also travels in smaller, drier droplets known as aerosols (which are less than 5 micrometers in diameter). Aerosols remain airborne for longer because of their size and are usually inhaled. Tuberculosis and measles are mainly transmitted through aerosols. Even if the coronavirus does travel in aerosols, though, it's not the main mechanism of transmission.
Scientists aren't yet sure how long droplets containing the virus can live on surfaces. According to the World Health Organization, "studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days." The wide range there depends on factors like the type of surface and temperature or humidity of the surrounding environment. (The length of time a virus survives on a surface also depends on what kind of droplet it's traveling in — saliva, phlegm, or aerosol.) Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, told lawmakers on Thursday that "on copper and steel it's pretty typical, it's pretty much about two hours," according to Reuters. "But I will say on other surfaces — cardboard or plastic — it's longer, and so we are looking at this," Redfield added. A review of 22 studies of other coronaviruses found that at room temperature, human coronaviruses could remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days. But the paper also said the viruses could be rendered inactive by common disinfectants and temperatures higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The best ways to avoid getting sick The best ways to avoid getting the coronavirus (or any virus), according to the CDC, are to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. The agency also recommends disinfecting commonly touched surfaces — doorknobs, light switches, phones, and keyboards — using household cleaning spray or wipes. The CDC suggests that anyone who might come into close contact with people who have COVID-19 take additional precautions, such as wearing a mask. While masks are not recommended for the general US public, people caring for confirmed coronavirus patients in medical settings or at home should wear them. In addition, the CDC recommends that people exhibiting flu-like symptoms stay home. If a person with flu-like symptoms does need to go out, they should also wear a mask, the CDC says.
The coronavirus has infected more than 89,000 people and killed more than 3,000 in total. Cases have been reported in at least 69 countries beyond China. The US has reported nearly 100 coronavirus cases and six deaths.
Read more about the coronavirus outbreak A biomedical engineer created a mask coated in salt that he says could neutralize viruses like the coronavirus in 5 minutes What to know about the coronavirus outbreak As the coronavirus outbreak worsens outside of China, hopes of containing it are diminishing Clorox and Lysol wipes may help to keep the coronavirus off surfaces, but they aren't the best way to protect yourself The CDC is warning travelers about visiting 5 countries because of the coronavirus. Here's the US government's guidance for Americans. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths
More like this (3)
The C.D.C. director says new data about people who are infected but symptom-free could lead the...The C.D.C. director says new data about people who are infected but symptom-free could lead the agency to recommend broadened use of masks.
The truth about how you can catch coronavirus, how much more elderly people are at risk...The truth about how you can catch coronavirus, how much more elderly people are at risk and what you can do to avoid infectionFind all our coronavirus coverage hereCoronavirus – latest news and updatesWhat are the symptoms and should I see a doctor?Wearing a face mask is certainly not an iron-clad guarantee that you won’t get sick – viruses can also transmit through the eyes and tiny viral particles, known as aerosols, can penetrate masks. However, masks are effective at capturing droplets, which is a main transmission route of coronavirus, and some studies have estimated a roughly fivefold protection versus no barrier alone (although others have found lower levels of effectiveness). Continue reading...
Face masks aren't a very effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, experts say, despite spiking sales
Sales of face masks are spiking in China and around the world amid a coronavirus outbreak....Sales of face masks are spiking in China and around the world amid a coronavirus outbreak. Health experts say that for the average person, the masks are not as effective as everyday measures like hand-washing and avoiding close contact with anyone who might be infected. Still, the CDC recommends that healthcare providers and those who might be infected wear masks. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Of the many preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from the growing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, wearing a face mask is one of the most visible. But health experts aren't convinced it'll help much. "There's little harm in it," Eric Toner, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said of donning a mask. "But it's not likely to be very effective in preventing it." Since the coronavirus outbreak started on December 31, more than 1,100 people have been infected and 41 have died. Cases have been recorded in 10 countries including China, where the outbreak originated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best precautions are the standard, everyday ways to avoid germs: wash your hands frequently, try not to touch your face, and avoiding close contact with sick people. However, the CDC has directed healthcare providers to give surgical masks to any patients that present flu-like symptoms or have recently traveled to Wuhan. That lowers the risk that a potentially infected person could spread the coronavirus to others via saliva or phlegm. The CDC also recommends that doctors and nurses treating potentially infected patients wear masks and goggles. But for the average person, a mask is likely unnecessary. 2 kinds of face masks Face masks are designed to catch large contaminants and particles, including ones that might carry pathogens such as the coronavirus. There are two common kinds: surgical masks and N95 respirators. N95 respirators filter out most airborne particles from the surrounding air, preventing wearers from breathing in particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter. These types of masks are often used when air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke or pollution, and they're designed to be tightly fitted. However, the coronavirus is 0.12 microns in diameter. Surgical masks, meanwhile, are designed to keep large particle droplets and splatter from passing from a person's mouth to nearby surfaces or people. They're meant to keep healthcare providers from spreading their own mouth-borne germs to patients. Surgical masks are looser-fitting than N95 respirators because of this distinct purpose. However, many people do not wear face masks properly: Wearers often move the masks to the side to touch their faces throughout the day, breaking the barrier that the mask is supposed to create. This makes the protection ineffective. People in the US probably don't need masks With only two confirmed cases in the US, the risk of contracting Wuhan coronavirus is "way too low to start wearing a face mask," Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, co-director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security, told the New York Times. The CDC has also said "the immediate health risk to the general American public is considered low at this time." That differs from the guidance in Wuhan, China, however — the city where the outbreak started. Authorities there have urged all citizens to wear masks in public places. Many stores in China have reportedly sold out of masks, and prices for masks have soared with demand. Even in New York's Chinatown, Reuters reported, face masks are flying off the shelves. Read more about the coronavirus outbreak The Wuhan coronavirus has killed 41 people and infected more than 1,100. Here's everything we know about the outbreak. Photos show how China is grappling with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak as 12 cities are quarantined and hospitals run out of space The Wuhan coronavirus has spread to 10 countries. Here's how to protect yourself while traveling. The flu is a far bigger threat to most people in the US than the Wuhan coronavirus. Here's why. Experts think the Wuhan coronavirus jumped from bats to snakes to people. Bats have been the source of at least 4 pandemics. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: You’ve been washing your hands all wrong — here’s the right way to do it