How Viruses Spread, How to Stop Them

Viruses spread from person to person mainly in droplets that escape from a sick person when they cough, sneeze or talk. These respiratory droplets then move through the air and land on the mouths or noses of others who are within at least six feet.

Germs can also be transferred when you touch mucus droplets left on surfaces like a desk and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Once a person is infected with a virus, their body becomes a reservoir of virus particles which can be released in bodily fluids – such as by coughing and sneezing – or by shedding skin or in some cases even touching surfaces, according to The virus particles may then either end up on a new potential host or an inanimate object. These contaminated objects are known as fomites, and can play an important role in the spread of disease.

Some viruses like the flu can live 24 hours or longer on frequently touched plastic and metal surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, and cups. Studies suggest COVID-19 can linger on surfaces for days including light switches, countertops, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks, remote controls and hardbacked chairs. These should be cleaned and disinfected daily, according to the Center for Disease and Control.

Surfaces should be cleaned before using a disinfectant that contains at least 70 percent alcohol. By first cleaning the surface, you are removing germs, dirt, and other impurities. This will lower the number of germs by removing them. But it will not kill them, which is why a disinfectant is needed.

By disinfecting the surfaces, you will be killing the germs left behind and further lowering the risk of spreading an infection.

The coronavirus COVID-19, which according to the CDC, causes coughing, fever and shortness of breath, is a member of the virus family coronaviridae, or coronaviruses. As of Thursday, the virus had caused the deaths of more than 16,000 people in the United States and almost 95,000 worldwide with nearly 1.6 million confirmed cases across the world.

Many animal and plant species have their own viruses including bats, which host many different kinds of coronavirus, one of which is believed to be the source of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to

Other coronaviruses were responsible for deadly outbreaks such as the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China, which infected more than 8,000 worldwide and killed almost 800, according to Healthline. And Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from 2012, which by November 2019 had killed 858 people and had 2,494 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization. These viruses often mutate, allowing them to be transmitted to humans.

At present, there is no known cure for COVID-19 so health officials are stressing the importance of prevention through social distancing, which includes keeping at least 6 feet away from others and cleaning and disinfecting often used surfaces.

The EPA has provided a list of disinfectants, which contain active ingredients that are believed to be effective against various types of viruses including the human coronaviurs. On the list are natural sultions such as hydrogen peroxide, ethanol and thymol. But other solutions considered effective against the virus has harmful effects such as quarternary ammonium.

Quarternary ammonium compounds can cause toxic effects through all routes of exposure whether it's by inhalation, ingestion or dermal application, according to They can cause skin and respiratory irritation, highly allergic reaction and interfere with hormone function. They are also toxic to aquatic life when washed downstream and are, therefore, bad for the environment. Additionally, a 2018 study found that hydrogen peroxide was more effective in killing some forms of bacteria than quaternary ammonium compounds, which is in many household cleaning products.

For a list of effective and non-toxic disinfectants, visit



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