Respiratory droplets are the primary method of spreading
Similar to the flu, people can become infected with the coronavirus through respiratory droplets expressed when someone is talking, sneezing or coughing, according to the CDC.
“The major mode of transmission with influenza is by droplet,” Dr. Keith Roach, an internist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian told AARP.
Airborne transmission is a factor
Particles lingering in the air for hours can potentially spread respiratory viruses, the CDC reported. That includes the coronavirus.
Health reported that experts can’t definitively say whether or not the flu is airborne, however, since the virus can’t necessarily hang in the air for long periods. Yet a study published in August found evidence of microscopic, non-respiratory particles with the ability to carry influenza between guinea pigs.
The influence of super spreaders
There is evidence that like COVID-19, the flu can spread at huge, superspreader events, or those were there’s the transmission of a communicable disease to a large portion of uninfected individuals. At such events, viruses “act more airborne,” and “smaller droplets [that] linger longer, travel further,” Dr. Jennifer Lighter, MD, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at NYU Langone, told Health.
Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread is more likely with COVID-19
Influenza and the coronavirus can spread asymptomatically and pre-symptomatically. For the flu, there is a shorter window of incubation or time from infection to illness. That can be between one to four days, according to the World Health Organization. However, symptoms of the coronavirus can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days, the CDC reported. That means there is more time that the coronavirus can infect someone without symptoms being present.
COVID-19 linked to a higher rate of spreading
Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who studies airborne viruses, told HuffPost that in general, a person with the flu will spread it to an average of 1 to 1.3 others. For COVID-19, each infected person can pass it to an average of 2 to 2.5 others. A person can spread it to at least 10 other people in some cases but in other cases, it could spread to less.
The reason is that there is a lack of immunity to COVID-19 in the population, Marr said. Precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing are also factors.
Lingering viruses on surfaces
The CDC stated it is possible to spread the coronavirus when touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The same is true for influenza, Intergis Health reported.
“This is why it’s important to avoid touching your face and to wash your hands often,” the website for Oklahoma’s largest not-for-profit and state-owned health care system said.