Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
How coronavirus spreads
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
Wearing masks or face coverings
Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you, even if you have no symptoms. It can be useful for short periods of time, when physical distancing is not possible in public settings such as when grocery shopping or using public transit.
Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering covers your mouth and nose to help prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. Just like our recommendation not to cough into your hands (instead, cover your cough with tissues or your sleeve), a mask can reduce the chance that others are coming into contact with your respiratory droplets.
If wearing a non-medical mask or face covering makes you feel safer and stops you from touching your nose and mouth, that is also good. But remember not to touch or rub your eyes.
Non-medical masks or face coverings have limitations and need to be used safely.
Non-medical masks or face coverings should not be placed on:
- children under age 2
- anyone who has trouble breathing
- anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
If you choose to use a non-medical mask or face covering:
- you must wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (in addition to practising good hand hygiene while wearing it)
- it should fit well (non-gaping)
- you should not share it with others
Face masks can become contaminated on the outside, or when touched by your hands. When wearing a mask or face covering, take the following precautions to protect yourself:
- avoid touching it while using it
- change a cloth mask as soon as it gets damp or soiled
- put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
- cloth masks and face coverings can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly
- non-medical masks or face coverings that cannot be washed should be discarded and replaced as soon as they get damp, soiled or crumpled
- dispose of them properly in a lined garbage bin
- do not discard them in shopping carts, on the ground, etc.