CDC: COVID infection through surface transmission is unlikely

Washing hands and wearing a mask further reduce the risk of surface transmission.
Publish date:

The odds of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 through contact with a surface harboring the virus is low, according to an update from the Centers for Disease Control.

New CDC research says that surface transmission is "generally considered to be low," and that the primary mechanism for spreading the illness is through respiratory droplets carrying the virus, which most commonly happens when someone is within 6 feet of an infectious person.

Surface transmission – known as fomite transmission – is also less likely to occur than instances of physical contact with an infected person, or airborne transmission (when smaller droplets from an infectious person remain suspended in the air over long distances for a period of hours).

In the second line of the CDC's release, it notes that the chances of getting infected through the touching of a surface is "generally less than 1 in 10,000."

The updated CDC intelligence is the result of ongoing studies of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, with the results showing "few reports of COVID-19 cases potentially attributed to fomite transmission." The CDC has found that fomite transmission is "difficult to prove definitively."

In the event that fomite transmission does occur, the CDC says it is most likely if a person touches a surface that an infected person coughs or sneezes on, and then directly touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

It comes after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 saw the sales of disinfectant wipes surge as little information was known about how the virus spread.

Nonetheless, the CDC still recommends washing or disinfecting hands regularly as a way of lowering the risk of surface or direct contact transmission. And it still says that cleaning surfaces is worthwhile, and disinfectant should be used if a surface has been touched by someone with a suspected or known COVID-19 infection.

Wearing face masks can also reduce the risk of surface or direct contact transmission by limiting contact between one's hands and one's nose and mouth.

The CDC's conclusion about fomite transmission is as follows:

"In most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk. Disinfection is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours. The risk of fomite transmission can be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, practicing hand hygiene, cleaning, and taking other measures to maintain healthy facilities."

Screen Shot 2021-04-07 at 8.20.46 AM

Next Up

Fire, firefighters

Fire heavily damages century-old church in northeast Minneapolis

The fire started Monday night and caused much of the church's roof to collapse.

Mike Ryan

Charges: High school hockey coach killed in fight over distancing at St. Paul bar

The 48-year-old had coached in Bloomington hockey programs for more than 20 years.


Walter Mondale dies at age of 93

His death was confirmed by family on Monday.

National Guard

Man charged in connection to shooting that injured National Guard troops

Four soldiers were inside a military vehicle that was shot at.

Chauvin trial

Walz declares emergency in Twin Cities, bringing in police from Ohio and Nebraska

The governor has asked the Legislature for emergency funding for the additional police.

derek chauvin court - closing arguments

Closing arguments in Derek Chauvin trial: Here's what was said

The jury listened to lengthy presentations from the prosecution and defense.


Man, 55, airlifted to a hospital after hit-and-run in Granite Falls

The passenger in the vehicle told police about the incident.

Minneapolis, unrest

Facebook labels Minneapolis 'high-risk,' will remove posts that incite violence

Facebook will remove posts that call for weapons to be brought to Minneapolis and anything that celebrates George Floyd's death.


After being sued, MyPillow is now suing Dominion Voting Systems

The company's lawsuit claims the voting system suppressed free speech and hurt its business relationships.

Chet Holmgren

Chet Holmgren makes his decision ... and it's Gonzaga

The Minnesota basketball phenom is following the footsteps of Jalen Suggs.

Sarah Glover

MPR News hires NBC's Sarah Glover as new managing editor

The experienced journalist was the first to serve two terms as president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).



Dinner with extended family? CDC issues Thanksgiving COVID-19 guidance

An outdoor dinner with a small group is considered a moderate-risk activity.

novel coronavirus, covid-19, sars-cov-2

In new guidance, CDC acknowledges that COVID-19 is airborne

Scientists have said the virus can spread via aerosol transmission, but the CDC and WHO's guidance on the virus did not reflect that.


MN health officials criticize CDC change to COVID-19 testing guidelines

The MDH wants asymptomatic people who may have been exposed to get tested.

covid-19, coronavirus

CDC re-issues guidance on how COVID-19 can spread via the air

Last month, the CDC updated its guidance and then removed it. Now it's back up – sort of.


CDC: Study suggests COVID-19 can be harder on pregnant women

The study doesn't come without faults, though there is enough info to suggest symptoms can be worse for pregnant women.

Screen Shot 2021-03-29 at 12.22.38 PM

CDC director 'scared' of COVID trajectory, feeling of 'impending doom'

The warning comes at a time when Minnesota's cases are rising.

coronavirus, covid-19

CDC director urges vigilance to prevent 'avoidable surge' of COVID

Minnesota's 7-day rolling average of new cases is rising.