Understanding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Important Information to Follow
Coughing & Sneezing
Hygiene etiquette involves practices that prevent the spread of illness and disease. A critical time to practice good hygiene etiquette is when you are sick, especially when coughing or sneezing. Serious respiratory illnesses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by:
- Coughing or sneezing
- Unclean hands
- Touching your face after touching contaminated objects
- Touching objects after contaminating your hands
To help stop the spread of germs:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put your used tissue in a waste basket.
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing:
- Wash with soap and water, or
- Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.
Cough etiquette is especially important for infection control measures in healthcare settings, such as emergency departments, doctor’s offices, and clinics. More information on respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette in healthcare settings may be found on CDC’s seasonal flu pages.
One final practice that helps prevent the spread of respiratory disease is avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you are ill, you should try to distance yourself from others so you do not spread your germs. Distancing includes staying home from work or school when possible.
For more information on stopping the spread of germs, please visit CDC’s Good Health Habits for Preventing Seasonal Flu pages.
When and How to Wash Your Hands
Hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Learn when and how you should wash your hands to stay healthy.
You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Use Hand Sanitizer When You Can’t Use Soap and Water
You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.
Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However,
- Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
- Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
- Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
For confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
Exposure Risk Categories
These categories should be considered interim and subject to change.
- Living in the same household as, being an intimate partner of, or providing care in a nonhealthcare setting (such as a home) for a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection without using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation
- The same risk assessment applies for the above-listed exposures to a person diagnosed clinically with COVID-19 infection outside of the United States who did not have laboratory testing.
- Travel from Hubei Province, China
- Close contact with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection, and not having any exposures that meet a high-risk definition.
- The same risk assessment applies for close contact with a person diagnosed clinically with COVID-19 infection outside of the United States who did not have laboratory testing.
- On an aircraft, being seated within 6 feet (two meters) of a traveler with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection; this distance correlates approximately with 2 seats in each direction (refer to graphic above)
- Living in the same household as, an intimate partner of, or caring for a person in a nonhealthcare setting (such as a home) to a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection while consistently using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation
- Travel from mainland China outside Hubei Province AND not having any exposures that meet a high-risk definition
- Being in the same indoor environment (e.g., a classroom, a hospital waiting room) as a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the definition of close contact
- On an aircraft, being seated within two rows of a traveler with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 but not within 6 feet (2 meters) (refer to graphic above) AND not having any exposures that meet a medium- or a high-risk definition (refer to graphic above)
No Identifiable Risk
- Interactions with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection that do not meet any of the high-, medium- or low-risk conditions above, such as walking by the person or being briefly in the same room.