How Long Are You Contagious With COVID-19?
With the pandemic rising, you may be wondering, how long are you contagious with COVID-19? The CDC has put together a list of guidelines that we're sharing here verbatim, as well as what the studies have shown, so you can know exactly how long are you contagious with COVID-19. One big takeaway: "You need to quarantine if you've been in contact with anyone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19," advises Dr. Deborah Lee. "This means staying at home and keeping away from other family members." Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
I think or know I had COVID-19, and I had symptoms
"You can be around others after:
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving*
*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation
Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.
Note that these recommendations do not apply to persons with severe COVID-19 or with severely weakened immune systems (immunocompromised). These persons should follow the guidance below for 'I was severely ill with COVID-19 or have a severely weakened immune system (immunocompromised) due to a health condition or medication. When can I be around others?'" says the CDC.
I tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms
"If you continue to have no symptoms, you can be with others after 10 days have passed since you had a positive viral test for COVID-19. Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.
If you develop symptoms after testing positive, follow the guidance above for 'I think or know I had COVID-19, and I had symptoms,'" says the CDC.
I was severely ill with COVID-19 or have a severely weakened immune system (immunocompromised) due to a health condition or medication. When can I be around others?
"People who are severely ill with COVID-19 might need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. Persons who are severely immunocompromised may require testing to determine when they can be around others. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information. If testing is available in your community, it may be recommended by your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you can resume being around other people based on the results of your testing.
Your doctor may work with an infectious disease expert or your local health department to determine whether testing will be necessary before you can be around others," says the CDC.
For Anyone Who Has Been Around a Person with COVID-19
"Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person.
However, anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and who meets the following criteria does NOT need to stay home.
- Has COVID-19 illness within the previous 3 months and
- Has recovered and
- Remains without COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath)," says the CDC.
Confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection of the virus that causes COVID-19
"Cases of reinfection of COVID-19 have been reported but are rare. In general, reinfection means a person was infected (got sick) once, recovered, and then later became infected again. Based on what we know from similar viruses, some reinfections are expected," says the CDC.
What the studies have shown
According to a joint research paper by Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases and the Academy of Medicine, coronavirus patients stop being infectious 11 days after they contract the virus—even if they are still testing positive. (However, no matter their finding, you should of course follow the CDC's guidelines on self-isolation and quarantine, available here.)
Examining the "viral load" in 73 coronavirus patients, the research team found that a positive test "does not equate to infectiousness or viable virus. The virus "could not be isolated or cultured after day 11 of illness," they explained.
"Based on the accumulated data since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the infectious period of [coronavirus] in symptomatic individuals may begin around 2 days before the onset of symptoms, and persists for about 7-10 days after the onset of symptoms," they wrote.
A Positive Result May Be Picking Up Just "Morsels"
While patients may still test positive after they are infectious, the researchers explained that tests may just be picking up morsels of the virus that can no longer spread infection. "Active viral replication drops quickly after the first week, and viable virus was not found after the second week of illness," they explained.
The significance of these latest findings has to do with critical healthcare decisions having to do with hospital discharge, or "de-isolation strategies," researchers explain. Instead of focusing on when an individual tests negative for the virus, researchers encourage "revised discharge criteria based on the data on the time course of infectiousness," focusing resources instead on "testing persons with acute respiratory symptoms and suspected COVID-19 in early presentation."
However, if you aren't sure whether you are still infected with COVID-19, you should definitely contact your healthcare provider instead of breaking quarantine a day or two early. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.