Covid-19: How Is It Transmitted?

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

It feels strange blogging about an infection that still ravages our country. Despite over 140,000 dead, it looks like it’s just getting started with no end in sight. With so much disinformation out there, I felt duty-bound as a physician with more than 20 years of experience, a public health education at Harvard, and someone who saw this infection coming in late December to educate others and myself.

COVID-19 is a contagious multisystem illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, a member of the Coronavirus family. Coronaviruses cause the common cold as well as SARS and MERS. The incubation period is unknown. Patients have developed symptoms as early as two days after exposure and as late as 21 days. The average time from exposure to symptoms is about 7-14 days. Anyone can become infected with COVID and anyone can die from it.  Certain pre-existing conditions such as obesity, diabetes or immunodeficiency put patients at higher risk.

How is Covid-19 transmitted?

According to experts, the primary mode of transmission is from human to human through contact with respiratory droplets or particles. Surface contamination does not play as important a role in transmission as previously thought.

The coronavirus is more easily transmitted indoors from person to person than outdoors. A COVID fertile environment is an indoor mass gathering with no social distancing or masks. That does not negate transmission from close outdoor contacts—a crucial reason to wear masks and maintain social distance in crowded outdoor spaces.

Recently, the World Health Organization revealed that viral transmission rarely occurs by small airborne particles that linger in the air. For many essential workers stuck in poorly ventilated workspaces or environments where the virus can become airborne, regular masks do not have sufficient protection. These essential workers require personal protective equipment (PPE), which include a face shield and an N95 mask that will filter smaller airborne viral particles.

There is no cure, so the best option is prevention, which dramatically reduces the chances of infection. Wear a mask, maintain social distance, and frequent hand washing. Avoid indoor spaces where you cannot social distance and wear a mask.

I repeat anyone can get COVID, and transmit it. The elderly and people with pre-existing conditions are more likely to develop severe complications.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Can I get COVID from kissing?  Most definitely, since large amounts of virus reside in the upper respiratory tract and saliva.
  • Can I spread COVID without symptoms?  Most definitely!  It’s believed people are most contagious 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms.
  • Can I get COVID from food? Unlikely, the intact virus does not survive well outside of respiratory droplets or particles, and heat inactivates the virus.
  • Can I get COVID from sitting on a toilet seat? Unlikely, if you maintain sanitary precautions with proper handwashing and hygiene.
  • Can I get COVID from a blood transfusion? There is no evidence that transmission can occur from a blood transfusion.
  • Can I get COVID from sexual intercourse?  Again, there is no evidence the infection is sexually transmitted.
  • Can I get COVID from animals? Some scientists believe the infection jumped from bats to humans. There are reports that humans have spread the virus to pets such as cats and dogs.


Coronavirus: Which Mask Should You Wear? – The New York Times

How COVID-19 Spreads

How Do You Catch Covid-19? It’s Becoming More Clear – WSJ

WHO: Airborne Transmission Plays Limited Role In Coronavirus Spread





Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

15 thoughts on “Covid-19: How Is It Transmitted?

  1. Re:
    FAQ 1. >> Can I get COVID from kissing? << That’s a FAQ? Hmmmm, shows how many morons are inhabiting Earth.

    FAQ 6. >> Can I get COVID from sexual intercourse? Again, there is no evidence the infection is sexually transmitted. << My question: Can I have sexual intercourse when keeping 6′ distance?

    1. You can get covid from kissing or oral sex but there is no evidence of it being sexually transmitted though the virus has been detected in semen.

        1. Great question! People can be creative. I imagine some will use masks, and go doggie style. 😝. You could design a PPE for sexual intercourse that includes a condom in case later scientists discover the virus might be sexually transmitted under certain circumstances.

            1. Ahem, your dick is one foot??? No wonder Lilith stayed with you. People are not gonna stop having sex and most men don’t have 12” dicks. Oral sex might need to be put on hold until we know more. 😢😂

            2. Yes, and leave it to Lilith to demand from a man what she wants.

              Btw, her giving me a blowjob 😚 is mega heavenly and defies any imagination 😈 In her hands, I’m lost. Reason too why she always wins when we’re playing our regular game of chess.

            3. When you are married and in a trusted relationship your desire prevails. Sadly, there was a rise in domestic abuse and divorce rates. Why didn’t most people see the romance in being hunkered down for 6-8 weeks?

  2. Thanks for this information. My personal assistant lost her sister-in-law 2 weeks ago to Covid related issues. She had just started treatment for Stage 2 breast cancer when she became sick and tested positive for Covid-19. She was placed in ICU on oxygen and administered plasma with antibodies. She got much better, but her kidneys shut down. Although dialysis was started, she did not want to continue and was placed in hospice where she died 3 days later.

    The virus appears to cause more than breathing problems. Do you have any thoughts on why it causes blood clots?

    1. Hi Xena, sorry to hear about your friend. Glad you’re good. You are correct COVID is a multi-organ illness involving an aggressive inflammatory response and a hypercoagulable state. The virus affects the complement pathway resulting in clot formation. Autopsy findings suggest most complications from severe COVID are from clots. Clots can be large and involve the heart, lungs, brain, or kidneys, resulting in massive heart attacks, arrhythmias, pulmonary embolus, or stokes. Or they can be small involving small vessels of the skin or any of the above organs. An example of clots to small vessels of the skin is COVID toes. Most complications are due to clots or massive inflammation-causing cytokine storms. Many young people without pre-existing risk factors die suddenly because of emboli (clots) to the lungs or heart IMO. There was a great article on Doximity, but the following are accessible overviews on the topic.

      Should You Be Worried About Blood Clots With COVID-19?

      What Is Known About COVID-19 and Abnormal Blood Clotting

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