The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday changed its website guidance on how COVID-19 spreads, emphasizing that it is mainly transmitted through the air, not on surfaces.
“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,” the agency said. “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.”
“How people get this virus can be boiled down to three very simple concepts,” John Brooks, M.D., chief medical officer for the CDC COVID-19 response, told CNN. “Keep the air clean, avoid getting exposed on your mucus membranes, and keep your hands clean.”
The virus is most commonly caught by standing near someone who is infected and when virus particles land on the face or are inhaled. It is less common to catch the virus by breathing contaminated air from people who are further away or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth, CNN said.
These new insights do not change what people should do but may help people to understand how the virus spreads, Brooks said. People should still wear a mask when near other people or inside, keep a distance from others, wash hands often, and get vaccinated. The CDC added, “Research supports that mask wearing has no significant adverse health effects for wearers.”
“Masks don’t just filter the air,” Brooks told CNN. “Wearing a mask covers your mucus membranes. It is more difficult to touch your mouth when a mask is over it,” he added.