Health Alert: CDC Guidance on Protecting Against COVID-19

Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Brasilia, Brazil (April 23, 2020) 

Location:  Worldwide/Brazil  

Event:  CDC Guidance on Protecting Against COVID-19

This alert summarizes current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on Covid-19, followed by answers from the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia Health Unit to frequently asked questions about common sense precautions.  The CDC has issued a Global Level 3 Warning which recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential international travel due to widespread ongoing global transmission COVID-19. 

Key Facts about the COVID-19 virus from the CDC:

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.  Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19.
  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

CDC Recommended Actions to Take

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home as much as possible.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.  Note:  Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Do NOT use a facemask (N-95 mask) meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others.  The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 from U.S. Embassy Brasilia’s Health Unit:

How much washing do I really need to do?  Although in theory it is possible to catch viruses, including COVID-19, from contaminated items from stores, most specialists would recommend that it is probably not necessary to disinfect every single product.  Your likelihood of contracting any virus is higher when you are at the grocery store rather than from the groceries you brought home.  Concentrate your efforts to avoid stress:  avoid crowded stores, shop at off-peak hours, sanitize the handle of the shopping cart, and wear a cloth mask.  Most importantly, do not touch your face during and after your shopping until you have either washed or disinfected your hands.  If you are particularly concerned, you can leave your non-expiring packaged products for about 24 hours untouched or spray their surface with an alcohol-based disinfectant.  Remember to wash your hands prior to touching your face or prior to eating. 

Is ​it true that this virus can live about three days ​on certain materials?  Yes, technically it is possible, but the likelihood of getting a viral infection is higher from direct and close contact with someone who has the illness or from touching a surface (and then your face) that was recently touched by an infected person.  Certain materials such as glass and stainless steel tend to allow the virus to live longer than other materials such as cardboard.  Treat all surfaces in outside places ​(like grocery stores​) as being potentially contaminated​.  The key is to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose prior to washing them or disinfecting them. 

What is the purpose of the cloth masks?  Cloth masks function as a physical barrier.  However, the explanation that is often missed is that they are mainly to protect others from the person wearing a mask who may be infected and not yet know it.  Since these viruses tend to be mostly carried in large droplets from respiratory sources such as cough, if an infected person coughs and is wearing a mask, then the droplets will disperse less.  N-95 masks need to be reserved for health care workers because they are usually exposed to higher numbers of actively sick people who cough high amounts of infected droplets.

Do I need to wash my shoes prior to coming into the house?  Most specialists also agree that you probably have a low risk of getting infected this way.  The only exception where some people may want to be extra careful is with young children who put everything in their mouth.  In that case, you may wish to leave shoes near the entryway to your residence.


Visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on the disease.  For information on what you can do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19, please see the CDC’s latest recommendations and advice on how to protect yourself.  

Visit our Embassy webpage on COVID-19 for information on conditions in Brazil. 

Visit the COVID-19 crisis page on for the latest information regarding foreign countries’ quarantine requirements and other global impacts.

Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions affecting travel to the U.S. 


United States Embassy and Consulates General in Brazil:    

U.S. Embassy Brasilia   
SES – Av. das Nações, Quadra 801, Lote 03   
Brasília, DF – 70403-900   
Phone: (61) 3312-7000   
After-Hours Emergencies: (61) 3312-7400   

Embassy Branch Office in Belo Horizonte  
Avenida do Contorno, 4520 / 2nd floor – Funcionários
Belo Horizonte, MG – 30110-028
Telephone: +55 (31) 3338-4000

U.S. Consulate General Recife   
Rua Goncalves Maia, 163 Bairro Boa Vista
Recife, PE – 50.070-060   
Phone: (81) 3416-3050   
After-Hours Emergencies: (81) 99916-9470
U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro   
Av. Presidente Wilson, 147 Castelo    
Rio de Janeiro, RJ — 20030-020    
Entrance at Rua Santa Luzia   
Phone: (21) 3823-2000   
After-Hours Emergencies: (21) 3823-2029   
U.S. Consulate General São Paulo   
Rua Henri Dunant, 500,   
Chácara Santo Antonio,   
São Paulo, SP — 04709-110   
Phone: (11) 3250-5000   
After-Hours Emergencies: (11) 3250-5373   

U.S. Consulate General Porto Alegre  
Avenida Assis Brasil, 1889 Passo d’Areia
Porto Alegre, RS – 91350-110
Phone: 51-3345-6000
After-Hours Emergencies: 51-3345-6000

For further information:   

Note:  The timestamp on this e-mail message may reflect Washington, D.C. time, which may differ from local time.