The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Updated 19 February 2020

Spread of infection

Spread of infection

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    There are reports of transmission of COVID-19 from people without any symptoms of illness. However, only a few studies describe the role of this type of transmission in relation to the overall spread of COVID-19 in the community. Based on the available knowledge about COVID-19 and similar diseases, the current understanding is that this route of transmission represents a minor part.

    Updated: 10/20/2020 2:29:30 PM

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    It is not yet clear how long the virus can survive outside the body. Research on related coronaviruses shows that they can live for several days on surfaces and items, under particular conditions. Their survival depends on temperature, humidity, and sunlight. Coronaviruses are sensitive to dehydration.

    The amount of virus particles present also determines how long a surface or an item is contagious. Such studies are done under controlled conditions in laboratories, and are not directly transferable to other environments, for example in the community.

    A recent study from a healthcare setting where patients with COVID-19 had been isolated shows that small amounts of genetic material from the virus can remain in the environment. Further studies will clarify the role of indirect contact transmission for the spread of COVID-19.

    It is important to maintain good hand hygiene. By washing your hands with soap and water you can decrease the risk of getting infected and infecting others. If water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand rub can be used instead.

    Updated: 5/18/2020 1:41:52 PM

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    There is no data indicating that people have been infected from food or water. The coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is mainly transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. This means that the virus reaches the inside of your eyes, nose or mouth from droplets that are dispersed in the air when someone sneezes or coughs. It is also unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted via water in swimming pools or other types of baths.

    Wash your hands often with soap and warm water; before cooking and eating and after using the toilet. Alcohol-based hand rub is an alternative when you do not have access to hand washing facilities.

    More information is available from the Swedish Food Agency (in Swedish).

    Updated: 5/14/2020 1:19:32 PM

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    The virus causing the disease COVID-19 was most probably transmitted from animals to humans at a market with live animals in China. The possible animal source of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed but research is ongoing.

    There are occasional reports that the infection can spread from humans to pets under certain circumstances, but the likelihood that this would occur is minute. The epidemic is driven by the spread of the virus between humans.

    More information is available from the National Veterinary Institute, SVA (in Swedish).

    Updated: 10/20/2020 2:30:15 PM

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    In a household where someone is ill with COVID-19 it is enough to clean as usual, using products available in supermarkets. Household waste, including paper tissues from infected persons, can be disposed of in your normal way.

    Updated: 3/20/2020 7:21:14 PM

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    We do not currently recommend face masks in public settings since the scientific evidence around the effectiveness of face masks in combatting the spread of infection is unclear. However, there may be situations where face masks can be useful despite the uncertain state of knowledge about the effects.

    We will therefore, in dialogue with the County Medical Offices, decide on situations where recommendations to wear a face mask could be valuable at national or regional level. Examples of such situations could be a visit to the optician or when you cannot avoid using public transport even though it is crowded.

    Face masks must always be seen as complementary to other recommendations: stay at home when you have symptoms, wash your hands regularly and keep at a distance from others.

    Read more about face masks (in Swedish)

    Updated: 10/20/2020 2:31:01 PM

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    The scientific evidence around the effectiveness of face masks in combatting the spread of infection is weak, which is why different countries have arrived at different recommendations.

    Some countries have chosen to view face masks as a form of security and hope that universal use of face masks will reduce the risk of infection spreading from people who are in the incubation period, before the symptoms are apparent, or who have such mild or unspecific symptoms that they do not consider themselves ill.

    The Public Health Agency of Sweden does not recommend the general use of face masks, as a face mask that itches or slips down below the nose may mean a person is regularly touching their mouth, eyes or nose with their hands, which can increase the risk of the infection spreading.

    Use of a facemask may also encourage people with mild symptoms to go out into the community, which might increase the spread of infection.

    The Public Health Agency of Sweden is constantly assessing the state of knowledge in this area and reviews new information from various sources.

    Updated: 7/13/2020 12:46:38 PM

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    Our general guidelines state that people should maintain a physical distance from other people to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, particularly outside their immediate circles. Closeness, intimacy and sex promote well-being and a general good state of health. In a steady relationship, where people are already seeing each other and are close, sex is not precluded provided you or your partner/s are not showing any symptoms of illness. However, dating and casual sexual relationships with new partners put you at risk of being infected or of infecting others.

    Updated: 7/13/2020 12:49:23 PM