Skip to main content

CDC confirms coronavirus can be airborne, plus study shows it lives on skin for nine hours

CDC confirms coronavirus is airborne, plus study shows it lives on skin for nine hours
(Image credit: Getty)

This week the CDC updated its 'How COVID-19 Spreads' guidance to acknowledge that yes, the coronavirus can sometimes spread via airborne transmission. The health organization stated that: "Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than six feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space."

Given the right conditions, these tiny respiratory particles, known as aerosols, can survive in the air for longer than we first thought. This type of airborne transmission is similar to how tuberculosis, measles and chickenpox are spread.

The CDC evaluated data that showed how the coronavirus spread from an infected person under certain conditions, namely that "transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising."

Again, this proves how important face masks are to reduce the risk of spread through close contact and airborne transmission. The World Health Organization recommends medical masks for people over 65 and for those with COVID-19 or who are caring for an infected person, and homemade face masks or reusable fabric face masks for the majority of the public.

An illustration showing how the coronavirus is airborne in tiny particles known as aerosols

(Image credit: Getty)

Close contact is still the main form of virus spread
In its updated guidelines, the CDC stressed that aerosols are not the main way COVID-19 spreads, and that it is still much more common for the virus to spread through, "close contact with a person who has COVID-19 than through airborne transmission."

Coronavirus symptoms include a new cough, fatigue and a fever, with the latter measurable using the best digital thermometers for fever monitoring.

Coronavirus survives on skin for nine hours, says study

In the same week as the updated guidance from the CDC, a new COVID-19 study from researchers in Japan says that the coronavirus can live on human skin for much longer than flu viruses. 

During testing the researchers found that the coronavirus remained viable on human skin samples for around nine hours, compared to around two hours for Type A influenza (IAV). The researchers then applied an ‘ethanol treatment’, commonly found in hand sanitizers, which inactivated both the coronavirus and influenza within 15 seconds. 

When discussing the findings, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the researchers argued that the study shows COVID-19 may have a much higher risk of contact transmission than flu viruses. This ties-in with the CDC stance above, and how the main risk of spread is still from close contact with an infected person.

Washing your hands regularly with soap is an important preventive measure against the coronavirus

(Image credit: Getty)

Highlighting the importance of proper hand hygiene, the researchers concluded that, “The survival of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission... thus accelerating the pandemic. Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of infections.”

How to protect yourself from COVID-19 in light of the new updates

Within its newly updated How COVID-19 spreads guidance, the CDC advises people to protect themselves by avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and ensuring indoor spaces are properly ventilated. This could include opening windows to let fresh air in, or by using one of the best air purifiers with True HEPA filters designed to capture 99.97% of allergens and virus particles, plus pollen, mold and fungi particles down to 0.3 microns.

Here’s how else you can better protect yourself against the coronavirus:

  • Stay at least six feet away from people who live outside of your household whenever possible
  • Use a face mask to cover your mouth and nose when around others to reduce the risk of spread
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • When outside the home, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol
  • Stay home and isolate if you are sick or if someone in your home has COVID-19
  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces

Covering the cost of COVID-19 treatment is a huge concern for many Americans, so if you don’t yet have coverage, or are thinking of switching to a new provider, take a look at our guide to the best health insurance companies. For ongoing prescription drug costs, read our guide to the best Medicare Part D plans.

Claire is Health and Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews and covers all aspects of health, wellbeing and personal care. With over 17 years' experience as a qualified journalist, writer and editor, Claire has worked across some of Future's most prestigious, market-leading brands. Due to past struggles with insomnia, she is particularly passionate about the role quality sleep plays in our physical and mental health, and loves helping readers to sleep better. Claire is always keen to hear from brands regarding products and services that can help readers feel healthy, happy and empowered.