Factfinder 12 explains how coronavirus spreads

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 10:08 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As we continue to follow the news of increased cases of COVID-19 across the United States and right here in Kansas, scientists are learning a little more about how the virus spreads.

Factfinder 12 looked into what they’re learning and how it can help keep you from getting sick.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been told to wash our hands often, for 20 seconds, sing the “Happy birthday” song. Our hands touch everything and then touch everything else. The germs spread to other surfaces and people.

To demonstrate just how easily germs can spread, Factfinder 12 investigator Alex Flippin uses a powder that fluoresces under UV light. He rubs it on his hands. It’s nearly invisible to the naked eye, but everytime he touches something a trace of it is left behind. When someone else touches it, they carry it to the next thing they touch, .and so on and so on.  

Now, imagine the invisible powder is what’s left behind when a person infected with COVID-19 coughs into their hand and then doesn’t wash properly.

“I mean, it’s amazing how fast touch travels,” says Mark Elpers with Steri-Clean Kansas.

The business will come and sanitize your home or office, but Elpers says, it doesn’t matter how well he does his job if we’re not all doing our part.

“It doesn’t do any good for us to come in, disinfect the business or home and then somebody comes back into the business and the first thing they do when they walk in is they don’t wash their hands,” says Elpers. “You have to wash your hands.” 

The good news is, scientists now believe that contracting COVID-19 from touching contaminated surfaces isn’t that common. That doesn’t change the rules though. Health professionals say if you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, eyes or nose, you can absolutely contract the virus which is why people are still encouraged to disinfect surfaces regularly, but we’re learning it’s actually much more common to catch coronavirus from something most of us do a lot.


It might sound gross, but when you sneeze, particles of saliva, some big and some really small, shoot from our mouth and into the air. It happens when we cough and even when we talk to. 

Scientists now say that aerosol from infected persons is how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person - most of the time.

Once infected droplets get into the air, we breathe them in. Enough of the virus either has to make it to you, right then, or build up over time to produce the infection, and once there it can begin replicating.

It’s possible to have come in contact with the virus and not gotten sick, even if you breathed in infected droplets. Experts say you have to build up enough of it to get sick which happens with prolonged exposure, basically 15 minutes or longer of unprotected contact with someone less than 6 feet away, even just talking. 

In rooms that don’t allow outdoor air in, the CDC says, those virus droplets can build up in the air, and in you, as you breathe.

They say to limit exposure time, wear a mask and avoid places where people are grouped together because just one sneeze can send infected droplets a pretty good distance, and it’s enough to get you and many others infected too. 

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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