How Viruses Work

Reducing the Spread

As we discussed, viruses can exist for a long time outside the body. The way that viruses spread is specific to the type of virus. They can be spread through the following means:

  • Carrier organisms - mosquitoes, fleas
  • The air
  • Direct transfer of body fluids from one person to another — saliva, sweat, nasal mucus, blood, semen, vaginal secretions
  • Surfaces on which body fluids have dried

To reduce the risk of spreading or contacting viruses, here are things you can do:


  • Cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough by using a tissue to cover your mouth or sneezing or coughing into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after going to the bathroom or preparing food. If you're not able to wash your hands, apply hand sanitizer liberally.
  • Avoid contact with the bodily fluids of others.
  • Consider wearing a face mask in public if you're worried about infecting others or being infected yourself.
  • Don't touch your face.

These practices are not foolproof, but they can help you significantly reduce the risk of viral infection.