For the past nine months, COVID-19 has spread from person to person in the United States, while researchers and medical professionals struggle to figure out the patterns of the new virus. Why do some people experience fatal results while others, for example, hardly have a fever? And why do some people get it and others not after being around the same patient zero? Fortunately, researchers may have just broken through on this discovery, and it all comes down to timing. According to a recently published scientific review of research, it is most likely that someone will give you COVID within five days after they first develop symptoms.
In their new review, published in Lancet microbe journal on November 1
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A symptomatic COVID patient is the most contagious five days after their symptoms appear.
Unlike SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, a patient’s viral load for coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, peaks early in the upper respiratory tract (which is thought to be the main source of transmission) in the first week of illness. Among COVID-19 patients, the researchers found that the viral load is highest – meaning the patient is most contagious – five days after symptom onset.
“Our findings are in line with contact tracing studies suggesting that the majority of viral transmission events occur very early and especially within the first five days after symptom onset, indicating the importance of self-isolation immediately after the onset of symptoms,” Muge Cevik, MD, lead author of the review and a clinical lecturer in infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St. Andrews, said in a statement. And for more ways to know if you got the virus, check This is the easiest way to tell if you have been exposed to COVID.
And asymptomatic patients can be contagious for a shorter period of time.
Cevik said some of the studies they reviewed “suggest that asymptomatic individuals may clear the viral material from their bodies more quickly,” even though their viral loads are similar to those with symptoms.
“Those without symptoms may be as contagious as those with symptoms at the beginning of the infection, but may be contagious for a shorter period of time,” she explained.
However, she also noted that asymptomatic patients should still isolate themselves within the same recommended time frame as symptomatic patients once positive, as there are “limited data available on infectious virus excretion in asymptomatic individuals.” And for more recent COVID development, check out Dr. Fauci says many people need to be vaccinated to stop COVID.
Neither symptomatic nor asymptomatic patients appear to be contagious after nine days.
The review identified 11 studies in which researchers tried to isolate the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, and found that no studies “detected live virus beyond day nine of the disease” for coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – although the virus could still be detected in their breath or stool samples for weeks after a positive test. This means that patients are probably no longer contagious nine days after their symptoms begin. For more useful content delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
… Therefore, it is recommended that positive COVID patients isolate themselves for 10 days.
While some may continue to test positive after a week of illness because the virus can still be detected, they are probably still not contagious. This is in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as anyone who has tested positive for COVID self-isolate for 10 days.
These findings suggest that repeated PCR testing may not be necessary in clinical practice to consider that a patient is no longer contagious, as this may remain positive for much longer and does not necessarily indicate that they can transmit the virus to others, “Cevik explained. “In patients with non-severe symptoms, their infectivity could instead be counted as 10 days from symptom onset.” And if you think you may be sick, read about the 4 easy-to-miss symptoms that could mean you have COVID, experts say.