How does COVID-19 spread?

When a person infected with COVID-19 exhales, they release respiratory droplets and aerosols into the air. These respiratory fluids contain the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and can spread the infection from one person to another. These particles can linger in the air and accumulate, even after the infected person leaves the area. These particles can hang in the air for several hours, depending on how poorly the area is ventilated. The more time that a person stays in an area containing these particles, the greater their risk of infection. COVID-19 can also be spread if a person touches a surface containing these respiratory fluids and subsequently touches areas of their face that contain mucous membranes, including the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears.

What are some preventive measures for COVID-19?

Wear a face mask when you are around other people, especially when you are indoors. Make sure that your face mask covers your nose, mouth, and chin. Maintain several feet of physical distance between yourself and others. Avoid being around large groups of people. Avoid poorly ventilated areas. Particularly high-risk settings include those where people gather in crowded indoor settings and talk loudly, shout, breathe heavily, or sing, such as restaurants, choir practices, fitness classes, nightclubs, offices, and places of worship. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching commonly used objects or surfaces. Avoid touching your face. Avoid contact with people who are currently infected with COVID-19. Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to lower the risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

How long can COVID-19 survive in the air and on other surfaces?

The amount of time that COVID-19 can survive in the air depends on how well ventilated the area is. An outdoor area carries the lowest risk of disease transmission, while respiratory fluids can accumulate in the air for several hours in a poorly ventilated indoor space. On a porous surface, such as paper, cardboard, or fabric, the coronavirus cannot survive longer than a few minutes to a few hours. On non-porous surfaces, such as stainless steel, glass, or plastic, the coronavirus can survive for several days to several weeks. The risk of being exposed to COVID-19 by coming into contact with an infected surface is lower than the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 through respiratory droplets and aerosols in the air.

Can you get COVID-19 from sexual contact?

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through semen or vaginal fluid. However, sexual contact places two people in very close proximity to one another, which presents a very high risk of disease transmission through respiratory droplets and aerosols. COVID-19 can also spread through contact with feces, which presents a risk of infection through sexual activities that could expose you to fecal matter. COVID-19 is more infectious than any sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, you can get COVID-19 from sexual contact. If you or your partner have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection, stay safe by refraining from sexual activities.

What are the differences between the available COVID-19 tests?

There are several different types of tests available that you can use to get tested for COVID-19. Two types of tests that are currently available in the U.S. include a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test and a rapid at-home antigen test. PCR tests are the most sensitive and accurate while typically providing results within 24 to 72 hours. However, you must meet with a healthcare provider to receive a PCR test. Alternatively, there are also at-home saliva and nasal swab tests that allow the user to collect the sample at home and mail it to a laboratory, which will conduct a PCR test on it. Rapid at-home antigen tests are faster and less expensive than PCR tests and can provide results in 15 minutes; however, these tests are more likely to produce false-negative results. A false-negative test result occurs when the user has an active COVID-19 infection but the test does not accurately return a positive result.

Are at-home COVID-19 self-tests reliable?

Positive results from at-home COVID-19 tests are reliable. However, at-home tests are more likely to produce false-negative results, meaning the individual has an active COVID-19 infection but the test does not accurately return a positive result. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and an at-home COVID-19 test produces a negative result, continue testing yourself as long as your symptoms persist. If your symptoms worsen and you continue to receive negative test results from at-home COVID-19 tests, seek a PCR test from a health care provider for a more accurate test result. At-home tests should be used around 5 days after a potential exposure to COVID-19, if you are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and immediately before you attend an indoor event where you will be around other people.

How long does it take for COVID-19 symptoms to appear?

Symptoms of COVID-19 are likely to appear between 2 and 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Some people become infected with COVID-19 and do not display any symptoms. You can still infect other people with COVID-19 even if you are not displaying any symptoms.

What are some of the first symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 affects each person differently and symptoms can vary from person to person. However, commonly reported initial symptoms include fatigue, headache, sore throat, fever, and loss of taste and smell. Symptoms typically worsen within 5 to 7 days of initial infection.

How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?

A mild or moderate COVID-19 infection will typically last around 1 to 2 weeks. Severe cases can last for months. Some people continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19 even after recovering from acute infection. This is known as “Long COVID.”

Can you get COVID-19 more than once?

Yes. Recovering from a COVID-19 infection will help your immune system protect you against being infected with COVID-19 again in the future. However, this does not provide complete protection against COVID-19 and reinfections are common.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I had COVID-19?

While recovering from a COVID-19 infection does provide some level of protection against being infected with COVID-19 again in the future, studies have shown that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine following recovery from a COVID-19 infection offers significant protection against COVID-19.

Do you have a question about COVID-19 that isn’t listed here?

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