The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted from person to person in close contact, within about 6 feet of one another.
Scientists suspect the transmission is similar to how influenza is spread, with the virus travelling through respiratory droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, talk or breathe.
Less commonly, the CDC says, SARS-CoV-2 can be spread through airborne transmission, meaning through small respiratory particles that linger in the air and can reach those who are further than 6 feet away. The evidence shows such airborne transmissions have occurred in enclosed spaces, without adequate ventilation and have involved heavy breathing or singing by the infected person, the CDC says.
The virus spreads “more efficiently than influenza but not as efficiently as measles,” which is one of the most contagious viruses and one that is transmitted through airborne particles, the CDC says.
The incubation period, or how long before someone who is infected shows symptoms, is estimated to be around four to five days, but can be as long as 14 days, according to the CDC. There is some evidence that asymptomatic people can transmit the virus to others.
It also could be possible, though not as common, for people to contract the disease by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose or even eyes.