Q: What does the term “community spread” mean exactly?

A: Generally speaking, a case of COVID-19 is considered to be a “community spread” case if the source of the infection is unknown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When epidemiologists are trying to figure out how someone has been infected, they look to see if the patient has traveled to an area with an outbreak of the new coronavirus (for example, Seattle or New Orleans) or if the patient had contact with someone known to have COVID-19. If it’s unclear how the patient became infected, epidemiologists typically consider that to be a case of community spread, which is also known as community transmission. In effect, if there is a case of community spread it means an infected person likely was infected within their own community, and not from some other known source.

Ciara McCarthy covers public health for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: or call 361-580-6597.

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