Community spread of COVID-19 means people have been infected with the virus in a given area. This includes some people who are not sure how or where they became infected.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. People are thought to be most contagious when they are symptomatic (the sickest). That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that symptomatic patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. (This depends upon how ill they are.) More recently the virus has also been detected in asymptomatic persons.

At this time, CDC has no data to suggest that this new coronavirus or other similar coronaviruses are spread by mosquitoes or ticks. The main way that COVID-19 spreads is from person to person.


Person-to-person spread can occur:

  • between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet).
  • through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • by those who are showing no visible symptoms of COVID-19.

The virus spreads easily between people

How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary. Some viruses, such as the measles, are highly contagious, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, which means determining whether or no it is going from person to person without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily and sustainably between people. Information gathered from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious.

The virus can spread in other ways

It is possible for people to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes. This is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.


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Cleaning surfaces around you

Because SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) can live on various surfaces for several hours and up to several days, it’s important to clean areas and objects that may come into contact with the virus.

To effectively clean the surfaces in your home, follow these tips:

Focus on high-touch surfaces. These are things that you or others in your household touch frequently during your daily activities. Some examples include:

  • doorknobs
  • handles on appliances, like the oven and refrigerator
  • light switches
  • faucets and sinks
  • toilets
  • tables and desks
  • countertops
  • staircase railings
  • computer keyboards and computer mouse
  • handheld electronics, such as phones, tablets, and video game controllers

Clean other surfaces, objects, and clothes as needed, or if you suspect they’ve been contaminated.

If possible, wear disposable gloves while cleaning; be sure to throw the gloves away as soon as you’ve finished. 

If you don’t have gloves, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after cleaning.

Based on the study “Stability of SARS-CovV-2 in different environmental conditions.” Published in Lancet, April 2020.