How likely am I to be infected?

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. This is why medical professionals encourage safe practices such as self-quarantining and social distancing, even for healthy individuals. How likely you are to be infected with the coronavirus depends on a variety of factors such as age, pre-existing medical conditions, and geographic location—and the preventative measures you’re willing to take.

Those who are older than 65 years old, live in a nursing home, or have weakened immune systems are more likely to be infected. Pregnant women also are at higher risk.

The CDC is still learning how the virus spreads, although it is believed to be primarily by close person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets that are produced by an infected person who coughs or sneezes. That’s why experts recommend social distancing, where you stay at least six feet away from other people.

What is the “basic reproduction number?”

In the study of communicable diseases, a basic reproduction number (also known as the “basic reproductive ratio” or “R0,” and pronounced “R-naught”) refers to the average number of people that will become infected by coming into contact with just one person carrying the disease—assuming everyone has zero immunity. Currently, the R0 of the coronavirus is believed to be approximately 2 to 2.5, according to the World Health Organization. 

This means an infected person will spread the disease to about 2.2 others on average. That means coronavirus is less contagious than measles (an R0 of between 12 and 18) but more contagious than the seasonal flu (an R0 of 1.3). 

If you’re showing no symptoms—a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath—the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by taking simple measures; Frequently washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and practicing sensible social distancing.

Sources: WHO, CDC, Business Insider, Wikipedia, Vox, Stanford, The Atlantic, University of Michigan

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