The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped half a million, as surging cases in Latin America and the United States prompted some authorities to reconsider lifting lockdown measures. In another grim milestone,the number of infections recorded worldwide rose to more than 10 million, according to an AFP tally, complicating efforts to ease restrictions on debilitated economies.
The coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface. That is the takeaway from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this month updated its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website.
The revised guidance now states, in headline-size type, “The virus spreads easily between people.” It also notes that the coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19, “is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.”
The CDC made another key change to its website, clarifying what sources are not major risks. Under the new heading “The virus does not spread easily in other ways,” the agency explains that touching contaminated objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission. The same is true for exposure to infected animals.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said Thursday that the revisions were the product of an internal review and “usability testing.”
“Our transmission language has not changed,” Nordlund said. “Covid-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person.”
The virus travels through the droplets a person produces when talking or coughing, the CDC website says. An individual does not need to feel sick or show symptoms to spread the submicroscopic virus. Close contact means within about six feet, the distance at which a sneeze flings heavy droplets.
Example after example have shown the microbe’s affinity for density. The virus has spread easily in nursing homes, prisons, cruise ships and meatpacking plants — places where many people are living or working in proximity. A recent CDC report described how a choir practice in Washington state in March became a super-spreader event when one sick person infected as many as 52 others.
“Direct contact with people has the highest likelihood of getting infected — being close to an infected person, rather than accepting a newspaper or a FedEx guy dropping off a box,” said virologist Vincent Munster, a researcher in the virus ecology section at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases facility in Hamilton, Mont.