Coronavirus information
12:39 · 20 September 2021

Coronavirus infection - this is how the coronavirus spreads

Coronavirus infection takes place above all via droplets and aerosols. Smear infection from surfaces is also possible. Read on to learn what modes of coronavirus transmission exist and what factors raise the risk of infection.

Coronavirus spreads from person to person. It can spread in various ways, above all via the respiratory tract. Specifically, the risk of getting infected depends on different factors. One factor that can raise the risk of infection is, for instance, the amount of viral particles shed by an infected person. The amount of time spent with a COVID patient can also be decisive, as can the location of a face-to-face meeting: The risk of coronavirus transmission is much higher in enclosed spaces than outdoors.  In addition, mutant strains of the coronavirus such as that from the United Kingdom, are assumed to spread more easily from person to person than the form of the virus known so far.

COVID-19 infection via droplets

Coronavirus infection takes place primarily via droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, he/she expels droplets containing viruses. These spread over a radius of approximately 1.5 metres before settling on surfaces. If other persons are in their vicinity, droplets can enter their mouth, nose and, in some cases, eyes, thereby causing them to become infected.

Coronavirus infection via droplets.

The closer the proximity to the infected person, the more infectious droplets can reach them. The probability of infection is smaller outside of this radius of at least 1.5 metres. This is why when meeting other people in person we have to observe the D in the DHM formula: Keeping a distance. The more consistently we follow the physical distancing rules, the less likely we are to spread or catch the coronavirus.

Coronavirus transmission via aerosols

Coronavirus can also spread via aerosols. This mode of transmission is similar to droplet infection and the distinction between them is fluid. Aerosols are droplet nuclei that are suspended in the air and are smaller than five micrometres. When a person speaks, and especially when laughing out loud or singing, these can be expelled and remain suspended in the air for a relatively long period of time. This is why rooms containing several people should be aired out regularly. The risk of infection is higher in this case, even more so if the persons are staying in these rooms for a longer period of time. A mask can offer added protection. If an infected person is wearing a mask, it can catch some of the droplets and aerosols so that they do not spread as easily as without a covering. Some types of mask such as FFP2 masks even protect the wearers themselves from possible infection, as you can read here.

Other modes of infection: Coronavirus transmission via smear infection

Coronavirus transmission via surfaces is also possible. Coronaviruses can survive on inanimate surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic. If a COVID-19 patient sneezes or coughs directly on such a surface, the virus will remain infectious for a certain period of time. The virus survival time is determined above all by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and surface texture. How long the coronavirus can survive on surfaces is not yet fully understood and is the subject of ongoing research. Laboratory studies done by a U.S. working group have shown that, in case of heavy contamination, the coronavirus can remain infectious for up to two or three days on stainless steel and plastic. This means that a non-infected person who touches a contaminated surface with their hands and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes, can get infected with the coronavirus and go on to develop COVID symptoms themselves. This is why regular and thorough hand washing is important to protect oneself from smear infection. In addition, coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm or into a tissue can avoid an infection. 

The DHM formula protects from coronavirus infection

The likelihood of getting infected with the coronavirus via one of the foregoing modes of transmission can be reduced by observing the DHM formula. By adhering to the minimum distance of 1.5 metres, following hygiene rules and masking up, you can protect yourself and those close to you. Another major protective measure is the A in the broader DHM + A formula: Here you can find out how thoroughly airing helps lower the risk of infection through aerosols. You can also help to stem the spread of the virus by using the Corona Warn-App (DHM+A) This is because the app helps you to identify if you have been in contact with an infected person and if this encounter involves a risk of infection.

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