Fact Check : CDC Advice On Avoiding COVID-19 Infection?

Did the CDC issue a comprehensive list of how many viral particles it takes to get infected, and how to avoid COVID-19 infection?

Let’s take a look at the viral message, and find out what the FACTS really are!


CDC Advice On Avoiding COVID-19 Infection?

This is the viral message that is being vigorously shared on WhatsApp, purportedly issued by the US CDC.


The emerging scientific evidence on Coronavirus transmission:

  1. Very low risk of transmission from surfaces.
  2. Very low risk from outdoor activities.
  3. Very HIGH risk from gatherings in enclosed spaces like offices, religious places, cinema halls, gyms or theatres.

These findings that have been emerging for a while need to be applied by people to manage the situation in the best possible manner. T time to reduce panic about surface transmission, and not be too eager to go back to office.

Q – Who is expected to catch CORONAVIRUS?
Q – What does it take to infect?


The typical environmental spread of activities:
> Breath : ~20 vp/minute
> Speaking : ~200 vp/minute
> Cough : ~200 million vp (enough of these may remain in air for hours in a poorly ventilated environment
> Sneeze : ~200 million vp


Those Are NOT CDC Advice On Avoiding COVID-19 Infection!

While there is a large amount of truth in the viral message, that was NOT advice by CDC on calculating the risks of getting infected, or how to avoid a COVID-19 infection.

Here are the facts…

Fact #1 : It Was Not Written By US CDC

The viral message appears to be a summary mash-up of two articles.

The first part on “emerging scientific evidence on coronavirus transmission” is a more recent article, whose origin cannot be determined.

The second part is actually a summary of an article written by Dr. Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D. – an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Fact #2 : Second Part Was Written In May 2020

Dr. Erin wrote the piece, The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them, on 7 May 2020, with an update on 20 May 2020.

Fact #3 : First Part Contradicts Second Part

If you carefully read the “advisory”, you will notice that the first part contradicts the second part.

The first part states that there is very low risk of transmission from surfaces, while the second part claims that there is high risk of surface transmission!

Fact #4 : 1000 VP Infectious Dose Was Hypothetical

The claim that only 1000 viral particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was enough to successfully infect a person was merely a hypothesis based on what we know about other respiratory viruses.

When Dr. Erin wrote his article in May 2020, NO ONE had any idea what was the actual infectious dose for COVID-19.

Even today – more than a year later, we are still not certain how many SARS-CoV-2 viral particles are required to infect a person.

It could be a few hundred particles, it could be tens of thousands. We simply DO NOT KNOW right now.

Fact #5 : US CDC Never Quantified COVID-19 Infectious Dose Or Risks

Even in the latest official CDC scientific brief on SARS-CoV-2 transmission (updated May 7, 2021), they did not quantify the infectious dose for a “successful COVID-19 infection”.

Neither did the US CDC list what activities are high risks or low risks.

They only state that the “risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection varies according to the amount of virus to which a person is exposed“, and that the risk increases in these circumstances :

  • Enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation or air handling within which the concentration of exhaled respiratory fluids, especially very fine droplets and aerosol particles, can build-up in the air space.
  • Increased exhalation of respiratory fluids if the infectious person is engaged in physical exertion or raises their voice (e.g., exercising, shouting, singing).
  • Prolonged exposure to these conditions, typically more than 15 minutes.

Fact #6 : Fomite Transmission Possible, But Not Proven

Based on the fact that other coronaviruses and respiratory viruses can be transmitted through fomites – contaminated surfaces – fomite transmission for COVID-19 is certainly a possibility.

There is also consistent evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can persist on certain surfaces for days. That led to early recommendations for sanitisation of public spaces where known positive cases were present.

However, WHO points out there has been NO SPECIFIC REPORTS of anyone getting COVID-19 through fomite transmission.

The US CDC also has a specific page on fomite transmission of COVID-19, where they concluded that as of 5 April 2021…

  • People can (potentially) be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces.
  • Based on available epidemiological data, the risk surface transmission is considered to be low.
  • Cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent is enough.
  • Risk of fomite transmission can be reduced by wearing masks, good hand hygiene and cleaning.


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