How is SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) transmitted?

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SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name for coronavirus. It is a virus that started in December 2019 and spread around the world as well as mutated multiple times. SARS-CoV-2 stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2”. This means that coronavirus is a respiratory virus that spreads via air droplets from an infected person to other people. There have already been over 5 million deaths recorded due to this pandemic and more than 6.4 billion doses of COVID vaccine has been administered world-wide. One of the main questions that keeps being asked is: “How is coronavirus transmitted?”.

Primary mode of transmission of COVID-19 virus is from person to person. Coronavirus can be transmitted via droplets or aerosols. For instance, when an infected person speaks, sneezes or coughs, droplets that contain the virus can be released and anyone within 2 metres can inhale it and be infected. The virus can live in the air for 3 hours before dying. Therefore, if someone breathes out, you might actually breathe in “infected” air.

A less common, but still viable, mode of transmission of coronavirus is through the surface. The virus can survive on surfaces like doorknobs or tabletops for 3 days. If someone with the virus coughs or sneezes on a surface, touching that surface and later touching your eyes, nose, or mouth puts you at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. To avoid the spreading of the virus, you should disinfect all the surfaces you touch frequently and keep yourself as well as your loved ones free from the virus.

Recent study shows that coronavirus is present in the feces of an infected person but no proof yet on fecal-oral transmission of coronavirus. However, if the infected person uses the bathroom and did not wash their hands before exiting, they might infect the things they touch. Community spread is when one gets infected without knowing from whom they got infected from.

There have also been a few pets that are tested positive for coronavirus. Some of them are asymptomatic while others show some symptoms. These animals might have contracted the virus from an infected human because humans can transmit the virus to pets but pets cannot transmit the virus back to humans.

Another popular question, especially amongst pregnant mothers, is: “Is it possible for an infected pregnant mother to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to the baby in the uterus by vertical transmission or through their breast milk?”. Although there is a study that shows its possibility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assures that babies from mothers with COVID do not have the disease when they are born. There are also no reports of virus transmitting through breast feeding. However, it is recommended that infected mothers be separated from their newborns to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus to the newborns.

It might not be possible for you to contract COVID-19 from packages, plastic bags, groceries or food. However, if you are grocery shopping on your own, make sure to keep a distance of at least 2 metres away from other people. Wear a facemask at all times and always carry along alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you. If you are using delivery services to get your groceries, choose contactless payment and ask the delivery person to leave your goods outside your front door and collect them once they have left. Once you have collected the goods, make sure to disinfect the plastic bags, the tabletops and also wash your hands. These are precautionary steps to keep yourself and your loved ones free from COVID-19.