You've heard about the rapid spread of COVID-19 and about more and more people getting the virus every day.

But how does the virus actually spread?

And how does it reach so many people so quickly?

Meet Joe. We'll take you through a day in his life to show you how.

Joe goes to the school cafeteria. When a student a metre away from him coughs, Joe inhales virus particles in the droplets.

Like many viruses, COVID-19 spreads through droplets in the air:

  • You can inhale the droplets when someone near you who is carrying the virus coughs, sneezes, or even talks
  • The droplets can even reach 2 metres away

It’s also possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that someone with COVID-19 has already touched, and then touching your face.

It's possible for some people to carry the virus and spread it without knowing.

  • Symptoms may not show up for days and you could infect other people during that time
  • Viral spread starts as a slow trickle like a stream, turning into a steady current and then a waterfall
  • The number of sick people grows and grows as the virus spreads more and more quickly
  • Each person who has the virus can spread it to 2 or 3 people, so for example, if 2 people have the virus, this becomes 4, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128... and so on until thousands have the virus

Joe has lunch with Sarah and Latasha, not realising that he now has the virus and can spread it just by talking.

A few days later, Sarah goes to a family wedding and starts coughing... transmitting the virus to other guests who inhale the droplets.

Even a small number of people who participate in large gatherings can transmit the virus to many more.

If nothing is done to slow the spread, a lot of people will get sick at once in a short amount of time.

Latasha stays home.She doesn’t spread the virus.

Rapid spreading of COVID-19 can be slowed.

  • Follow basic health and hygiene practices, like handwashing
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if needed
  • Improve ventilation
  • Follow recommendations of what to do if exposed
  • Stay home if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting sick
  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Goals of slowing the rate of infection:

Spread out the number of sick people over a longer period of time so everyone doesn’t get sick at once. This is called “flattening the curve.” This helps to:

  • Give hospitals and healthcare workers the space and materials they need to better care for sick people
  • Give scientists time to learn more about the virus and how to treat or prevent it

YOU can help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives!