How to Catch a Virus

On August 16 a worker at one of the quarantine facilities caught Covid-19 from a person that he or she had never met. It has forced us to think about how people can catch Covid-19, and what to do about it.
Scientists say that the main way to catch the virus is from person-to-person contact. This means that we meet a person, and catch the virus from their breath, or from touch. We can avoid catching a virus from person-to-person contact by practicing social distancing, using a mask, and washing our hands.
Another way to catch the virus is by touching a fomite. A fomite is an object that the virus is sitting on. In the case of the Auckland August cluster, the first virus may have come into New Zealand on refrigerated imports. The worker at the Rydges Hotel* may have caught the virus from touching an elevator button or door handle. We cannot be sure of this, but fomite transmission is possible. However, it is rare. We can prevent fomite transmission by cleaning things often, and washing our hands.
Another possible way that the worker caught the virus is asymptomatic transmission. If you are asymptomatic, it means that you don’t have any health problems. It is possible to have the virus and still be asymptomatic. There is a lot of discussion about whether someone who has the virus and is asymptomatic can pass on the virus. One theory is that the worker caught the virus from someone who was asymptomatic. You can avoid catching the virus from someone who is asymptomatic by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands.

*The Rydges Hotel is being used as a quarantine facility.


refrigerated: stored in a refrigerator and therefore cold

imported: coming into the country

transmission: the movement of something from one place to another in an abstract way. For example, broadcasting or the spread of a disease.

rare: unusual, not common

pass on: give someone a disease that you have