How Does COVID-19 Spread When You Don’t Feel Sick?


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U.S. Latinos continue to deal with a heavy burden of COVID-19.

Even if they don’t feel sick, a Latino or any person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread the virus to others.

But how does that spread happen?

How Viruses Spread

Even when you have a mild infection, there is virus in your nose, throat, and lungs.

Virus particles can spread through respiratory droplets that come out when you talk, breathe, cough, or blow air out of your nose or mouth.

When you release respiratory droplets, they can land on someone’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or someone can breathe them into their respiratory tract. If this happens, the virus in the droplets can infect them.

Respiratory droplets can also fall on surfaces. If someone touches that surface and then touches their face, mouth, or nose before cleaning their hands, the virus can spread to them and make them sick.

“Everywhere your hands can go, the virus can go too, from keyboards to patient beds and elevator buttons,” said Dr. Abigail Carlson, an infectious diseases physician with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), as part of CDC Project Firstline’s Inside Infection Control video series. “And then, the virus can go from those surfaces and get picked up by someone else’s hands and make its way onto their eyes, nose, or mouth, eventually infecting them and making them sick.”

How Viruses Spread Even with No Symptoms

A cough or fever are examples of symptoms that can occur when your immune system is working to fight off germs, like viruses.

When you are infected with SARS-CoV-2 and you don’t feel sick, but you will in a few days – this is called “pre-symptomatic” infection. You might be infected and never feel any symptoms at all – this is called “asymptomatic” infection.

This asymptomatic spread of virus is not unique to COVID-19 and is also seen in other infections, like the flu.

That is why it is so important to practice good infection control, like cleaning your hands and wearing masks for source control, even when you don’t feel sick.

What Can You Do to Promote Infection Control in Your Healthcare Setting?

Access more information about infection prevention and control in healthcare by visiting resources from CDC Project Firstline.

Project Firstline creates resources, including videos and shareable images, web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator toolkits to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.

Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to bring Project Firstline infection control educational content to healthcare workers, so they are equipped with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, their facilities, and their patients (Latinos and all communities) from infectious disease threats in healthcare settings.

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“Healthcare teams in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings are the front lines against the spread of infection,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “CDC’s Project Firstline is bolstering those efforts by developing evidence-based tools that can be delivered in a variety of ways to make infection control learning convenient and accessible for busy healthcare staff.”

Learn More about Project Firstline!

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline and view Salud America!’s infection control content.



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