Touching surfaces not as dangerous as previously thought

Updated May 22, 2020

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New guidelines issued this week, say “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads”.  — AFP/File
New guidelines issued this week, say “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads”. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ by touching surfaces or objects, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), changing its previous guidelines which placed a greater emphasis on this possibility.

The CDC had previously warned that people can get infected “by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes”.

But the new guidelines, issued this week, said “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads”.

The CDC has now placed this possibility under a new category of causes that “do not” allow the virus to “spread easily”, although such infections “may still be possible”.

Explaining the change, the official US health agency clarified that “Covid-19 is a new disease and we are still learning more about this virus”.

The CDC also challenged the general perception that the virus can easily spread from animals to people. “At this time, the risk of Covid-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low,” it said.

The new guidelines, however, warned that the virus “can spread from people to animals in some situations”.

The CDC said it was “aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19, mostly after close contact with people with Covid-19”.

The new guidelines also retained CDC’s position that person-to-person contact was the main cause of the globally spread of this disease, which has already infected more than five million people and killed more than 330,000.

“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person. Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet),” the new guidelines explained.

The virus spread rapidly “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs”, the CDC warned.

“Covid-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.”

How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary. A major factor, according to the CDC, “is whether the spread is sustained, which means it goes from person to person without stopping”.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020