How to tell when you are contagious

How to tell when you are contagious

If you have symptoms of respiratory infection, including cough and fever, it’s best to assume you are contagious, and you should stay at home, away from others.

Everything from the common cold to the flu as well as COVID-19 are contagious and can be spread from one person to another. Symptoms that should cause you to stay home instead of visiting with family and friends, or working, include:

  • Fevers higher than 100.4 degrees.
  • Recurring vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Drainage from one or both eyes.
  • Draining or moist wound.
  • A cough that is uncontrolled and cannot be covered.

If you have severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, you should visit the Emergency Department. Call ahead to ensure health care staff can prepare for your arrival.

How to Prevent Illness

To prevent infection, you should wash your hands often and avoid touching surfaces and your face. In addition to those commonsense hygiene practices, you should also eat well, stay hydrated and get sufficient rest. These are all things that help keep your body healthy.

If you are sick, try to limit the spread of the illness by:

  • Staying home from work or school.
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wash your hands frequently (at least 20 seconds wiping both the top, bottom of hands and between the fingers)
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve and throw away any used tissues.

If you think you might have COVID-19, find out more about the symptoms and how to be tested.

Published February 19, 2022 • Updated on February 19, 2022 at 3:18 pm

When are people with COVID most contagious and how long can they spread it? When should you get tested after exposure and how long should you quarantine, if at all?

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted the timing for isolation and quarantine as some experts say the time frame when people are most contagious is earlier.

“As we’ve seen these new variants develop – delta, now omicron – what we’re seeing is everything gets sped up from a COVID perspective,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. “It is taking less time from when someone is exposed to COVID to potentially develop infection. It is taking less time to develop symptoms, it is taking less time that someone may be infectious and it is, for many people, taking less time to recover. A lot of that is because many more people are vaccinated.”

Here’s what we know.

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When Are People with COVID Most Contagious?

The CDC says that its guidelines were updated to reflect growing evidence that suggests transmission of COVID-19 often occurs one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days after.

“This has to do with data from the CDC that really showed after seven days there’s virtually no risk of transmission at this point,” Arwady said. “And in that five-to-seven-day window, you know, there’s some depending on whether people have been vaccinated underlying conditions, etc., but the risk drops a lot and the feeling is that in the general population, combined with masking, etc. the risk really is very low.”

For those without symptoms, CDC guidance states they are considered contagious at least two days before their positive test.

When is the Best Time to Get Tested After Exposure?

The CDC states that anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should test five days after their exposure, or as soon as symptoms occur.

“If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that incubation times could be changing, but those who test early should continue testing even if they get negative results.

“We might be learning that the time of incubation might be a little shorter. So maybe you’d be testing at two days,” Ezike said. “Obviously if you’re symptomatic, you test right away. But you know, if you want to test at two days, but that negative test. the two days should not make you think, ‘oh good, I’m clear.’ You know, you might want to test again and of course symptoms can you cannot ignore – scratchy throat, headaches, all kinds of symptoms – anything new can be a symptom of this new illness.”

How Soon Might Symptoms Appear?

According to earlier CDC guidance, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.

Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get tested for COVID-19.

How Long Should you Quarantine or Isolate?

First things first, those who believe they have been in contact with someone who has COVID and are unvaccinated should quarantine. Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s the breakdown:

Quarantine

Those who have been within 6 feet of someone with COVID for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period should quarantine for five days if unvaccinated or more than six months out from their second dose, according to updated CDC guidance issued Monday.

Once that period ends, they should partake in strict mask use for an additional five days.

Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and who came in close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.

Prior to Monday, people who were fully vaccinated — which the CDC has defined as having two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — could be exempt from quarantine.

Those who are both fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with COVID, but should wear a mask for at least 10 days after exposure. The same goes for those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for their booster shot.

Local health authorities can also make the final determination about how long a quarantine should last, however. And testing can play a role.

Illinois’ health department said it will adopt the CDC revised guidelines on isolation and quarantine for COVID.

In Chicago, those who travel to or from certain parts of the country and are unvaccinated must quarantine upon arrival to the city, but the length of time they should do so for depends on whether they get tested for COVID.

The city has not yet said if the new CDC guidance will change its travel advisory guidelines.

As of Tuesday, the city’s travel advisory recommends those who travel from designated warning states must:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

“Due to the risk of severe illness and congregate transmission, IDPH recommends the full 14-day quarantine period rather than the shortened options described above in congregate living settings with vulnerable populations, such as skilled care and correctional facilities,” the Illinois Department of Public Health states on its website.

Isolation

People who are positive for COVID should stay home for five days, the CDC said Monday, changing guidance from the previously recommended 10 days.

At the end of the period, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere — even at home around others — for at least five more days.

If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

So how do you calculate your isolation period?

According to the CDC, “day 0 is your first day of symptoms.” That means that Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.

For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive must start their calculations over, however, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.

When Should You Call a Doctor?

The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

“This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”

You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.

The length of time you’re infectious for after having a viral infection depends on the type of virus involved.

The infectious period often begins before you start to feel unwell or notice a rash.

Bronchitis

The length of time that bronchitis is infectious varies, depending on its cause.

In most cases, bronchitis is caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold or flu, and you’re likely to be infectious as long as you have cold or flu symptoms.

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is infectious from 2 days before the spots appear to until they have crusted over, usually 5 days after they first appeared.

Common cold

The common cold is infectious from a few days before your symptoms appear until all of the symptoms are gone. Most people will be infectious for around 2 weeks.

Symptoms are usually worse during the first 2 to 3 days, and this is when you’re most likely to spread the virus.

Flu is usually most infectious from the day your symptoms start and for a further 3 to 7 days.

Children and people with lowered immune systems may be infectious for a few days longer.

Glandular fever

Glandular fever isn’t particularly contagious and can usually only be spread through direct contact with saliva, which is why it’s sometimes called “the kissing disease”.

There’s no reason not to continue to go to school or work if you feel well enough.

Measles

Symptoms of measles appear around 10 days after you become infected.

Measles is most infectious after the first symptoms appear and before the rash develops.

  • a high temperature
  • red eyes
  • cold-like symptoms – such as a runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing

Around 2 to 4 days later, a red-brown spotty rash develops that normally fades after about a week.

Mumps

Mumps causes your salivary glands to swell. These glands are just below and in front of your ears.

Mumps is most infectious from a few days before your glands swell until a few days afterwards.

Rubella (german measles)

People with rubella should stay off school or work, and avoid contact with pregnant women where possible, for 6 days after the rash firsts develops.

Shingles

You can’t spread shingles to others. But people who haven’t had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.

Shingles is infectious while the rash oozes fluid.

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis itself isn’t contagious, but the viruses that cause it are. The length of time you’re infectious will depend on the virus.

Further information

  • How long will I be infectious after starting antibiotics?
  • What are the incubation periods for infections?
  • GOV.UK: infectious diseases

Page last reviewed: 13 November 2018
Next review due: 13 November 2021

It is believed people are at their most infectious one to two days before the onset of symptoms, and during the two to three days afterwards

How to tell when you are contagious

Chances are – either you or someone you know has recently been infected.

Here’s how long you are contagious with Covid for, and how long you can test positive.

How long are you contagious with Covid?

For previous variants, the World Health Organisation said symptoms could begin to develop anywhere between two days and two weeks after infection.

However, the incubation period for Omicron and its offshoots is believed to be much shorter – between three and five days.

It is believed people are at their most infectious one to two days before the onset of symptoms, and during the two to three days afterwards.

This helps explain why Omicron has been able to spread so quickly, as people have passed the virus on before even realising they have it.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in December: “Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than the Delta variant.”

Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr Allison Arwady told NBC: “As we’ve seen these new variants develop – Delta, now Omicron – what we’re seeing is everything gets sped up.

“It is taking less time from when someone is exposed to Covid to potentially develop infection. It is taking less time to develop symptoms, it is taking less time that someone may be infectious and it is, for many people, taking less time to recover. A lot of that is because many more people are vaccinated.”

Data shows that the majority of people are no longer infectious seven days after beginning to experience symptoms or first testing positive, particularly when vaccinated, and the vast majority are no longer infectious after 10 days.

It is worth noting that many people have reported experiencing different symptoms with Omicron than those most commonly associated with Covid-19; a cough, fever, shortness of breath and loss or change to taste and smell.

Among those symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose

If you experience any of these symptoms you should take a lateral flow test, and you are advised to isolate if it is positive.

More on Covid-19

How long can you test positive for Covid?

Most people will stop testing positive within 10 days of starting to experience symptoms, or receiving their first positive test.

However, it is possible to continue testing positive for weeks or even months after having the virus.

The good news is that even if you are continuing to test positive after a long time, it is highly unlikely you are actually contagious.

The Gavi Vaccine Alliance explains: “The time taken to test negative after contracting Covid-19 depends on the severity of the case, and also on the test itself. PCR tests that hunt out parts of viral genetic material (RNA in the case of Covid-19) in our bodies and amplify it so we can detect it are extremely sensitive and can even pick up the presence of few viral fragments. This is because fragments of viral RNA can remain in our bodies long after the infection is over and the virus has been cleared from our system.”

How long do I have to self-isolate for if I test positive?

The legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive has been scrapped in England, under the Living with Covid plan.

However, people are still being advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others.

It’s not yet clear when people infected with omicron become contagious but it might be sooner than earlier variants.

How to tell when you are contagious

Omicron variant accounts for 98% of new US COVID infections

When am I contagious if infected with omicron?

It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants — possibly within a day after infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts.

That’s because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants – about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

With previous variants, people became contagious two to four days after infection. And people remain contagious a couple days after symptoms subside.

Researchers say it’s too early to know whether that shorter incubation period for omicron translates into earlier contagiousness. But it would help explain the variant’s rapid spread.

Dr. Amy Karger of the University of Minnesota Medical School recommends that people test themselves at three days and five days after exposure if possible.

“A lot of people are turning positive by day three,” Karger says, referring to omicron. “There’s basically an opportunity here to catch people earlier than you would with the other variants.”

If you only have one test, it’s fine to wait until day five, Karger says.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms should get tested immediately if possible.

Lab-developed tests are more sensitive than rapid tests so they should be able to pick up the virus by day three after exposure, if not earlier.

People who don’t develop symptoms generally have much lower viral levels, so it’s far less clear when or if they become infectious.

Still, those who test positive but don’t have symptoms should isolate for at least five days, under the latest CDC guidelines. The agency came under criticism for not requiring a negative test before leaving isolation, but even after tweaking the guidelines officials said that step should be optional.

People with symptoms should stay isolated until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

January 18, 2022 | Kim Schive

How do we live with COVID-19?

This is a question MIT has been asking and answering repeatedly for the last two years. The Institute’s response to this question has evolved with time, viral variants, and the advent of effective vaccines. And it will continue to change, says Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis. “This virus is not going away,” she emphasizes. “It will continue to adapt, and so will we.”

How to tell when you are contagious

The new CDC guidelines, which have been adopted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and MIT, represent the latest answer to the question of how we live with the virus. Even as cases surge, driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant, the updated guidelines reduce the isolation period for infected individuals from 10 full days to five after a positive test result — or after symptom onset, if symptoms come later — as long as the individual is asymptomatic at that point or symptoms are mild and improving. Those five days of isolation must be followed by five days of strict masking around others.

It’s a change that has been met with skepticism in some quarters. “The reasoning behind the shift to a shorter isolation period could have been better communicated at the time,” Stuopis acknowledges, “But while economic considerations and concern about disruption to critical services may have been factors, I also believe that these guidelines represent a growing realization that the virus is here to stay. And I think they are a valid response to the circumstances and the current science.”

The CDC points to hundreds of studies showing that the amount of virus in the noses of infected individuals generally peaks around the time of symptom onset and declines rapidly thereafter. Although infectious virus has been cultured from nasal samples up to nine days following symptom onset, researchers have repeatedly failed to document viral transmission occurring later than about a week after symptoms begin. One study that examined transmission patterns between 730 infected individuals and their 8,852 close contacts in mainland China showed that infected individuals were most likely to transmit the virus to others from about two days prior to symptom onset through the two to three days that followed. A more rigorous contact-tracing study in Taiwan found no transmission occurring later than six days after symptom onset — this despite the fact that the 2,761 close contacts in this study included nearly 700 healthcare workers who were not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment at the time of exposure.

There’s also more recent evidence that vaccinated people who become infected may clear the virus faster than people who are not vaccinated. A Singaporean study of 218 vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals infected with the Delta variant showed that, while both groups had similar viral loads at time of diagnosis, Ct levels (a measure of the amount of virus present in the nose) decreased faster in vaccinated patients — about three days faster, on average. Another study analyzed nearly 20,000 viral samples obtained from 173 infected individuals — 36 vaccinated, 137 unvaccinated — who were part of the National Basketball Association’s occupational health program between late November 2020 and mid-August 2021. As in the Singaporean study, researchers reported similar peak viral levels in both groups, but vaccinated subjects cleared the virus in an average of 5.5 days, compared with 7.5 days for unvaccinated individuals. “With our highly vaccinated, and increasingly boosted, population here at MIT, shorter isolation periods may make even more sense for us,” Stuopis notes.

An important caveat is that none of these studies involved the Omicron variant. We don’t yet know for sure that infectiousness peaks at the same time with this variant or how vaccination affects the timeline for viral shedding. But we do know that the same precautions that have worked against earlier variants will continue to be effective, because it’s the same virus, and the mode of transmission has not changed.

The new guidelines mean that some people may leave isolation while they are still infectious, even if most transmission risk is gone after five days. “But that’s where that strict, five-day masking requirement comes in,” Stuopis stresses. “Wearing a well-fitted, highly filtering mask — like the KN95 or KF94 masks you can pick up at any Covid Pass drop-off site — any time you are around other people should reduce any remaining, post-isolation transmission risk significantly.”

Still, Stuopis expects MIT to continue recording high numbers of positive tests for the near future. “We now know that Omicron is a much more transmissible variant with a shorter incubation period,” she says. “With people testing positive three days after exposure, contact tracing is much less useful. Before you can be informed of a potential exposure, you may already have become infectious yourself, even if you haven’t yet tested positive or developed symptoms.”

The good(ish) news, everyone seems to agree, is that Omicron appears to cause milder illness, on average, than previous variants, particularly in vaccinated and boosted individuals. But while vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, it’s still important to take precautions against getting the virus and spreading it. “You probably didn’t end up in the hospital the last time you had a bad case of the flu,” Stuopis notes, “but it’s likely that you were extremely miserable for at least several days, maybe longer. A moderate breakthrough case of COVID-19 can feel as bad or worse, with symptoms that last even longer. And it’s important to remember that our families and communities include children who are too young to be vaccinated and other individuals who are at risk of serious outcomes if they become ill.”

The new guidelines are an attempt to strike that difficult balance between shielding the most vulnerable members of our community, preserving critical services at MIT and elsewhere, and avoiding stringent public health restrictions that result in more disruption than benefit. “There are no simple answers,” Stuopis says. “MIT will continue to make decisions based on the best scientific data available at any given time. Individuals in our community may choose to act more cautiously based on their own levels of risk tolerance or the vulnerability of family members. The most important thing — now and as we continue to live with this virus — is that we each take personal responsibility for protecting the health and safety of our communities in the best ways we can.”

This news story has not been updated since the date shown. Information contained in this story may be outdated. For current information about MIT Medical’s services, please see relevant areas of the MIT Medical website.

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Health

When Am I Contagious If Infected With Omicron?

How to tell when you are contagious(AP Illustration / Peter Hamlin)

When am I contagious if infected with omicron?

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It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants — possibly within a day after infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts.

That’s because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants – about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

With previous variants, people became contagious two to four days after infection. And people remain contagious a couple days after symptoms subside.

Researchers say it’s too early to know whether that shorter incubation period for omicron translates into earlier contagiousness. But it would help explain the variant’s rapid spread.

Dr. Amy Karger of the University of Minnesota Medical School recommends that people test themselves at three days and five days after exposure if possible.

“A lot of people are turning positive by day three,” Karger says, referring to omicron. “There’s basically an opportunity here to catch people earlier than you would with the other variants.”

If you only have one test, it’s fine to wait until day five, Karger says.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms should get tested immediately if possible.

Lab-developed tests are more sensitive than rapid tests so they should be able to pick up the virus by day three after exposure, if not earlier.

People who don’t develop symptoms generally have much lower viral levels, so it’s far less clear when or if they become infectious.

Still, those who test positive but don’t have symptoms should isolate for at least five days, under the latest CDC guidelines. The agency came under criticism for not requiring a negative test before leaving isolation, but even after tweaking the guidelines officials said that step should be optional.

People with symptoms should stay isolated until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

When am I contagious if infected with omicron ?

It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants — possibly within a day after infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts.

That’s because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants – about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

With previous variants, people became contagious two to four days after infection. And people remain contagious a couple days after symptoms subside.

Researchers say it’s too early to know whether that shorter incubation period for omicron translates into earlier contagiousness. But it would help explain the variant’s rapid spread .

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Dr. Amy Karger of the University of Minnesota Medical School recommends that people test themselves at three days and five days after exposure if possible.

“A lot of people are turning positive by day three,” Karger says, referring to omicron. “There’s basically an opportunity here to catch people earlier than you would with the other variants.”

If you only have one test, it’s fine to wait until day five, Karger says.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms should get tested immediately if possible.

Lab-developed tests are more sensitive than rapid tests so they should be able to pick up the virus by day three after exposure, if not earlier.

People who don’t develop symptoms generally have much lower viral levels, so it’s far less clear when or if they become infectious.

Still, those who test positive but don’t have symptoms should isolate for at least five days, under the latest CDC guidelines . The agency came under criticism for not requiring a negative test before leaving isolation, but even after tweaking the guidelines officials said that step should be optional.

People with symptoms should stay isolated until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

It’s a critical question that has played on the minds of individuals with COVID-19 who want to see friends and relatives again: How long should I isolate to make sure I’m not contagious?

So far, there doesn’t seem to be a universally accepted answer.

In the US, government rules allow most people to end isolation after five days without having to take a test; that contrasts with the UK, where Brits with COVID-19 can exit on Day 6 but only after testing negative for the last two days of isolation and without a fever. Without a test, they have to wait 10 full days.

Policymakers have to strike the balance between limiting the advance of the pandemic and preventing the economy from grinding to a halt. President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said December 28 that US COVID-19 isolation guidelines were designed to “get people back to jobs.”

But some disease experts in both the UK and US have warned that isolation guidance doesn’t follow science and risks people inadvertently spreading the virus at work or school, especially if they haven’t taken a test.

Robert Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco said on Twitter on January 14, that his son’s rapid test was positive at Day 10. “If we hadn’t tested, he’d be on his third day of work,” he said.

The UK Health Security Agency, which informs UK policy, estimated that almost a third of people with COVID-19 were still contagious five days after symptom onset or a positive test. If people tested negative using a rapid test on Days 5 and 6 of isolation, 7% were infectious, according to the models. For comparison, the number of people contagious after 10 days was 5%, the data showed.

Gary McLean, a professor of molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University, told Insider that, generally, people with COVID-19 were “potentially infectious” from two days before symptoms and up to 10 days after.

McLean said there was a good chance of not being infectious after following UK guidance, but it wasn’t foolproof. Immunity and the number of virus particles with which a person was infected can determine how long they remain infectious, he said. “Everyone’s a bit different,” he said.

The estimates are also not specifically for Omicron infections.

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, told Insider at the time of the data release that there wasn’t much data on the dynamics of an Omicron infection compared with other variants. This means we can’t predict exactly how infectious someone with Omicron is.

Both Young and McLean agreed that the UKHSA data was the “best available” if you’re not sure whether you’re infectious, with the caveat that it wasn’t exact for every case.

This is the percentage of people who are contagious at certain points of time in isolation, according to the UKHSA data:

Five days since symptoms begin/positive test: 31%

  • Plus two negative rapid tests on consecutive days: 7%

Seven days since symptoms begin/positive test: 16%

  • Plus one negative rapid test: 9%
  • Plus two test negative rapid tests on consecutive days: 6%

10 days since symptoms begin/positive test: 5%

14 days since symptoms begin/positive test: 1%

Other early data:

Japan

A study of 21 people found vaccinated people hospitalized with Omicron had peak levels of infectious virus particles three to six days after diagnosis or symptom onset. No infectious virus particles were detected after 10 days, the study authors said.

A study from researchers at University of Exeter published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found 13% of 176 participants carried potentially infectious virus particles at Day 10. Some people retained these levels of virus for up to 68 days, they said. The study was carried out before Omicron became the most common variant.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that the number of days people were infectious in the community could be cut to almost zero by requiring at least two consecutive days of negative tests. This is regardless of the number of days after initially testing positive.

The researchers cautioned that the models used pre-Omicron data. The study hasn’t been published or formally scrutinized by other experts in a peer review.

After contracting Covid-19, some individuals may continue to test positive for the virus after symptoms resolve and isolation periods end. But are these individuals still contagious?

For how long can you test positive?

According to Stephen Kissler, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people tend to test positive on rapid Covid-19 tests for six to 10 days. However, outliers may test positive for longer.

Kissler said some individuals can test positive with rapid tests for up to 14 days, and, according to Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, even longer with PCR tests.

“You can still have positivity that may persist for weeks and even months,” Paniz-Mondolfi explained, noting that positive tests on PCR have been recorded for up to 60 days.

According to Benjamin tenOever, a microbiologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, some people may continue to test positive because the weakened virus keeps replicating, or because of broken virus genomes.

Typically, the omicron variant stays localized in the upper respiratory tract, especially in individuals who have been vaccinated and boosted. As a result, there may be more nucleocapsid protein in the back of the throat and nose. In addition, broken virus genomes can linger after the virus creates a “bad version” of itself, said tenOever.

How long should you isolate?

Last month, CDC reduced its Covid-19 isolation guidelines for people who test positive for Covid-19 to five days. After those five days, CDC said, “[i]f you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving … you can leave your house.”

Many health experts pushed back on the guidelines, arguing that the shortened isolation period without producing a negative test could lead to more coronavirus transmission. According to CDC, its updated guidelines were based on data that suggested most transmission “occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”

In response to criticism, CDC defended its updated guidelines, and ultimately recommended that those who have access to a Covid-19 test and want to take one should take an antigen test near the end of their five-day quarantine. If their antigen test is positive, CDC said the infected person should keep quarantining until day 10. If the test comes back negative, the guidelines say the person is able to end isolation at day five but should continue wearing a well-fitting mask for an additional five days around people at home and in public.

So, what if an individual tests positive and quarantines until day 10, but then continues to test positive past the recommended isolation period?

As CDC noted in its updated guidance, people tend to be most infectious towards the beginning of a Covid-19 infection. So, by the time you reach day eight, nine, or 10, “you still have the chance to spread to other people, but it’s probably not as much as you did early in the course of your infection,” Kissler said.

“If you are testing antigen positive, you should assume a low level of virus infection,” tenOever said. “You are possibly transmissible.”

And while experts say it’s safest for individuals to continue to isolate until they no longer test positive, they note that this might not be feasible for everyone.

“You might be able to begin slowly sort of reintegrating while still being mindful of your contact,” Kissler said. He recommended avoiding enclosed spaces with other people and wearing a mask, preferably something like a KN95 or KF94, USA Today reports.

Separately, Paniz-Mondolfi agreed, saying after 10 days, “you’re good to go and you’re even better to go if you keep practicing containment measures. Keep wearing your mask. Keep practicing social distancing.” (Henderson, MedPage Today, 1/20; Jacoby, USA Today, 1/18)

How to tell when you are contagious

Chana Davis, PhD, Contributing Writer

If you get a positive antigen rapid test, it’s best to assume that you are contagious.

A positive PCR test doesn’t tell you whether you’re contagious, because PCR can be positive for weeks after the infectious period.

Neither PCR nor rapid tests directly measure contagiousness, but they both shed light on what’s going on inside you. The key is to understand what they can, and cannot, tell you.

🧪 Rapid tests detect specific proteins inside the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and only light up when there is a ton of it on your swab, to the tune of millions of copies. Thus, a positive rapid test means that your swab is teeming with virus, and you are likely contagious.

⚠️ A negative rapid test is trickier to interpret. In the early days of an Omicron infection, you can be contagious yet test negative, because the virus hasn’t taken off *yet* in your nose. In the later days of infection, a change from positive to negative sends a strong message that you’ve cleared the virus.

⏰ How long will I be positive? With rapid antigen tests, people only test positive during the infectious period of 1-2 weeks. A recent study of NBA players tested daily found high viral levels (likely contagious) for an average of 10 days with Omicron, and 11 days for the Delta variant, with significant person-to-person variation.

🧪 PCR can detect whispers of residual virus, long after the contagious period. Think of PCR as a sleuth checking out the scene of the crime to see if there is any lingering evidence of a villain. Thus, a positive PCR test doesn’t tell you whether you’re teeming with virus, or cleaning up the last little remnants. Your contagiousness depends on where you are in this journey.

⚠️ A negative PCR test means that your swab didn’t have even a small amount of virus. Just like a negative rapid test, this is not necessarily a green light, especially in the first few days of an infection, when the virus may not *yet* have taken off in your nose. False negatives PCR tests can also happen due to issues with sampling, processing, or analysis.

⏰ How long will I be positive? With PCR, you can expect to test positive for weeks, or even months (rarely), well after the infectious period.

🤓 Nerd Notes: PCR is super sensitive because it involves a signal “amplification” step (while rapid antigen tests do not). Viral RNA is first converted to DNA, then the DNA is copied many times in a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

In reality, COVID PCR tests don’t just give “yes” or “no” answers. They give a value, called a Ct or cycle threshold value, that indicates many amplification cycles it took to get a strong signal. A PCR test is reported as positive when the Ct value is below a certain cutoff (e.g, Ct

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    If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?

    By Staff and wire reports • Published January 12, 2022 • Updated on January 12, 2022 at 9:52 am

    If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?

    It’s a question many are asking as omicron cases surge across the country and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines, which now differ depending on whether or not you have a symptomatic infection.

    Here’s what we know so far:

    Sore throat continues to be a symptom reported, particularly in mild breakthrough infections, health officials say. Those with any flu- or cold-like symptoms should assume they have COVID until proven otherwise.

    Stay informed about local news and weather. Get the NBC10 Boston app for iOS or Android and pick your alerts.

    What are the other symptoms to watch for after COVID exposure?

    With some omicron cases, particularly breakthrough infections in those who are boosted and vaccinated, remaining mild, many are wondering how to tell if it’s a cold, the flu or COVID-19.

    Those who are fully vaccinated aren’t necessarily getting seriously ill and having fevers for days and difficult breathing, but are instead experiencing a more mild illness, similar to a cold. But they still have the ability to transmit the virus to others.

    Those who are unvaccinated, however, are experiencing similar symptoms to early on in the pandemic, health officials said.

    Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant. But unlike delta, many patients are not losing their taste or smell.

    The evidence so far, according to Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She noted also that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.

    Still, CDC data showed the most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.

    Overall, the symptoms for COVID reported by the CDC include:

    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    The CDC also has what it calls a “coronavirus self checker” that allows people to answer a series of questions to determine if they should seek medical care.

    “The Coronavirus Self-Checker is an interactive clinical assessment tool that will assist individuals ages 13 and older, and parents and caregivers of children ages 2 to 12 on deciding when to seek testing or medical care if they suspect they or someone they know has contracted COVID-19 or has come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the CDC’s website reads.

    How soon might COVID symptoms appear?

    According to earlier CDC guidance, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.

    Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get tested for COVID-19.

    Some people may never experience symptoms, though they can still spread the virus.

    A person is also considered contagious before symptoms appear.

    When are people with COVID most contagious?

    The CDC says that its guidelines were updated to reflect growing evidence that suggests transmission of COVID-19 often occurs one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days afterward.

    For those without symptoms, CDC guidance states they are considered contagious at least two days before their positive test.

    When should you call a doctor?

    The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

    “This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”

    You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.

    How long after COVID exposure could you test positive?

    According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID is between two and 14 days, though the newest guidance from the agency suggests a quarantine of five days for those who are not boosted, but eligible or unvaccinated. Those looking to get tested after exposure should do so five days after the exposure or if they begin experiencing, the CDC recommends.

    Those who are boosted and vaccinated, or those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for a booster shot, do not need to quarantine, but should wear masks for 10 days and also get tested five days after the exposure, unless they are experiencing symptoms.

    Still, for those who are vaccinated and boosted but are still looking to be cautious, health experts say an additional test at seven days could help.

    When is the best time to get tested after exposure?

    The CDC states that anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should test five days after their exposure, or as soon as symptoms occur.

    “If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

    Though the incubation times could be changing, experts still advise those who test early to continue testing even if they get negative results.

    The CDC issued new guidance last month, shifting the timing for isolation and quarantine

    By Staff and wire reports • Published January 14, 2022 • Updated on January 14, 2022 at 11:04 am

    As more children remain in classrooms across Massachusetts and omicron cases continue to surge through the state, people are asking how long they’ll be contagious after contracting COVID-19.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance last month, shifting the timing for isolation and quarantine as some experts say the timeframe when people are most contagious is earlier.

    So what is the period where someone with COVID is most contagious?

    Here’s what we know:

    Stay informed about local news and weather. Get the NBC10 Boston app for iOS or Android and pick your alerts.

    When Are People With COVID Most Contagious?

    The CDC says that its guidelines were updated to reflect growing evidence that suggests transmission of COVID-19 often occurs one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days afterward.

    For those without symptoms, CDC guidance states they are considered contagious at least two days before their positive test.

    When is the Best Time to Get Tested After Exposure?

    The CDC states that anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should test five days after their exposure, or as soon as symptoms occur.

    “If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

    How Soon Might Symptoms Appear?

    According to earlier CDC guidance, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.

    Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get tested for COVID-19.

    How Long Should You Quarantine or Isolate?

    First things first, those who believe they have been in contact with someone who has COVID and are unvaccinated should quarantine. Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Here’s the difference between the two:

    Quarantine

    Those who have been within six feet of someone with COVID for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period should quarantine for five days if unvaccinated, or if they are more than six months out from their second vaccine dose, according to updated CDC guidance issued Monday.

    Once that period ends, they should partake in strict mask use for an additional five days.

    Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and who came in close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.

    Prior to Monday, people who were fully vaccinated — which the CDC has defined as having two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — could be exempt from quarantine.

    Those who are both fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with COVID, but should wear a mask for at least 10 days after exposure. The same goes for those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for their booster shot.

    Isolation

    People who are positive for COVID should stay home for five days, the CDC said Monday, changing guidance from the previously recommended 10 days.

    At the end of the period, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere — even at home around others — for at least five more days.

    If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

    So how do you calculate your isolation period?

    According to the CDC, “Day 0 is your first day of symptoms.” That means that Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.

    For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, Day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive must start their calculations over, however, with Day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.

    When Should You Call a Doctor?

    The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

    “This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”

    You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Elizabeth I. Molina Ortiz, MD, is board-certified in family medicine. She is a primary care provider with Atrius Health in Boston and was the medical director of Charles River Community Health.

    Millions of cases of the common cold occur in the United States each year, spreading easily from person to person. Colds can be caused by hundreds of different viruses, making it impossible to develop a single vaccine or medication able to prevent or treat it.

    For this reason alone, colds are an almost inevitable part of life and sometimes difficult to avoid. With that said, you can reduce the risk of transmission by isolating the infected person until they are no longer contagious.

    Verywell / Ellen Lindner

    This article explains how colds are spread and when they are the most contagious. It also describes ways to prevent transmission of the virus if you or someone you care for gets a cold.

    How Colds Spread

    Colds are spread through airborne droplets, person-to-person contact, and contact with contaminated surfaces. When you are sick, coughing and sneezing can propel droplets into the air where they can land on surfaces or enter someone else’s upper respiratory tract.

    Cold viruses can live on surfaces for several hours, making it possible to become infected if you touch a contaminated surface and then your nose. This is referred to as fomite transmission.

    Recap

    Colds are spread through airborne droplets. The virus can also be passed through person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.

    How Long You’re Contagious

    The incubation period for a cold virus is 24 to 72 hours. This is how long it takes for symptoms to appear after you become infected. With respect to the common cold, this means you will start to develop symptoms one to three days after exposure to the virus.

    Colds are most contagious one to four days after symptoms develop. These may include a runny nose, congestion, coughing, headache, and sore throat. Not everyone gets all these symptoms, and the severity can vary.

    Most colds last for about a week, but it’s possible to spread the virus after that. In fact, cold viruses can persist in the body for up to three weeks. While the risk of airborne or fomite transmission decreases rapidly over time, it may still be possible to infect others even if you no longer have symptoms.

    Recap

    The incubation period of cold viruses is between 24 and 72 hours. Colds tend to be most contagious one to four days after symptoms appear but can continue to be contagious well after this.

    Prevention Tips

    If you get a cold, the best way to avoid spreading the virus is by isolating yourself. It also helps to wear a face mask to catch respiratory droplets if you cough or sneeze. People who live with you can do the same.

    Be sure to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. It is best to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm; in this way, you can avoid contaminating your hand. You can cough or sneeze into a tissue but will need to wash your hands afterward (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).

    You and others in your household should frequently wash your hands and regularly clean surfaces. Try your best to avoid touching your face (like scratching or rubbing your nose).

    It’s especially important to take these precautions if you live with older adults, infants or toddlers, persons with asthma, or people with weakened immune systems. While a cold may not necessarily be worse in these individuals, your symptoms may turn out to be something more dangerous, like the flu or COVID-19.

    Recap

    You can prevent the spread of colds by isolating yourself, wearing a face mask, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands frequently, and cleaning surfaces.

    If You Are Exposed

    While there are no vaccines to prevent colds or surefire ways to avoid cold symptoms, there are things you can do that may reduce the severity or duration of a cold. These include:

    • Getting plenty of rest
    • Increasing fluid intake to prevent dehydration
    • Sipping warm tea, warm soup, or warm apple juice to loosen congestion
    • Using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier
    • Gargling with salt water to relieve a sore throat
    • Using over-the-counter saline nasal drops or sprays to treat a stuffy nose

    Summary

    Colds are spread by airborne droplets, person-to-person contact, and touching contaminated surfaces. Colds are most contagious one to four days after cold symptoms appear but may be contagious even longer.

    If you get a cold, you can prevent the spread of the virus by isolating yourself, wearing a face mask, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands frequently, and regularly cleaning surfaces.

    Treating a cold properly, including getting plenty of rest, may reduce its duration or severity.

    A Word From Verywell

    No one enjoys catching a cold, but, by taking a few standard precautions, you may be able to avoid spreading the virus to others. Out of courtesy to others, it is best to take time off from work or school if you have cold symptoms.

    The same applies if you are scheduled to go to an event or location where there will be a lot of people, such as a concert or a movie theater. Even if you’re not entirely sure you are sick, you should avoid going out as you may inadvertently be the cause of a super-spreader event.

    The way mono works in the body is tricky, so lots of people are confused about how long it is contagious. If you get mono, the virus stays in your body for life. That doesn’t mean that you’re always . But the virus can surface from time to time and risk infecting someone else.

    Here’s how it works:

    Mono, or mononucleosis, usually is caused by an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

    People who have mono can be contagious from the time they first become infected. But they may not know that they have the virus. It takes a while for mono symptoms (like tiredness, fever, muscle aches, headache, or sore throat) to show up — about 1–2 months, in fact. This is called the incubation period.

    To make things even more confusing, some people can carry the virus without ever getting any mono symptoms. So they may not know they have been infected, but they can still pass it to others. In fact, most people have been infected with EBV by the time they reach adulthood.

    People are definitely contagious while they have symptoms, which can last 2–4 weeks or even longer. Health experts aren’t sure how long people with mono stay contagious after symptoms are gone, but it seems they can spread the infection for months after that. Then, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body for the rest of a person’s life.

    Sometimes the dormant virus can “wake up” and find its way into a person’s saliva (spit). That person might not feel ill or show any mono symptoms, but can spread the virus to other people. So there’s a very small chance that people who have had mono in the past can pass it to others, even when they feel OK.

    The bottom line is that it’s hard to prevent mono from spreading. Because EBV is so sneaky, infections are common. That’s why doctors urge everyone to wash their hands well and often. It’s the best way to keep germs at bay.

    When your COVID-19 symptoms were at their worst, you were probably solely focused on the basics: resting, hydrating and monitoring yourself for worsening symptoms.

    Now, as your road to recovery becomes clearer and clearer, you may be wondering what your “new normal” will look like once your symptoms subside. Unlike the common illnesses you’re used to, like a cold or the flu, COVID-19 comes with a few extra question marks.

    How long will I be contagious? Should I be worried about these lingering symptoms? Does this mean I don’t have to get vaccinated or wear a mask anymore?

    Here to help you understand what life looks like after recovering from COVID-19 is Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Houston Methodist Primary Care Group Same Day Clinics.

    Don’t leave home while you’re still contagious

    A person with COVID-19 is thought to be most contagious in the days immediately leading up to symptom onset (aka, the presymptomatic period) and throughout the first several days of his or her symptoms.

    But, it can take several more days for a person’s immune system to actually clear the virus from the body.

    “Most studies show that by the end of 10 days of infection, your body has cleared the active virus,” says Dr. Septimus. “A person with COVID-19 is likely no longer contagious after 10 days have passed since testing positive for coronavirus, and 72 hours after resolution of his or her respiratory symptoms and fever,” Dr. Septimus explains.

    When it comes to staying home long enough to ensure you’re no longer contagious, be sure to follow the CDC’s isolation guidelines. Completing your isolation, even if you’re asymptomatic or your symptoms are clearing up and you’re feeling better, is imperative to ensure you don’t spread COVID-19 to others.

    Some symptoms may last longer than you’d like

    COVID-19 comes with a pretty long list of symptoms — the most common being fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

    Both the severity and duration of these symptoms vary from person to person, but some symptoms are more likely to last well into your recovery period.

    “Some symptoms of COVID-19 linger longer than others,” says Dr. Septimus. “In particular, fatigue and loss of taste and smell can persist beyond the period of contagion.”

    While uncomfortable and/or inconvenient, Dr. Septimus adds that these lingering symptoms aren’t too worrisome for most people.

    You still need to get vaccinated or get your booster, wear a mask and social distance

    In fact, a recent study found that unvaccinated adults were twice as likely to get reinfected with COVID-19 than those who got vaccinated after they’d recovered from their illness.

    “We still know very little about the immune system’s response to this virus, including how long protective immunity may or may not last,” Dr. Septimus warns. “What we do have a clear understanding of is the strong protection that vaccine-induced immunity provides.”

    What does this mean for you?

    Even after recovering from COVID-19, it’s imperative that you get vaccinated and continue to practice the preventive measures that protect yourself and others from the virus, including social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly.

    For those who are vaccinated and experience a breakthrough infection, you’ll still want to get a COVID booster. If you are 16+, it’s recommended that you get your booster once your symptoms resolve and you have met the criteria for ending isolation — and the recommended time has elapsed since your primary series of either Pfizer (5 months), Moderna (6 months) or J&J (2 months). People who received monoclonal antibodies as part of their COVID-19 treatment plan will need to wait 90 days before getting a COVID booster.

    “The universal precautions that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are just that — universal,” Dr. Septimus adds. “We’re all in this together, and we’re all responsible for keeping our community safe. Each and every one of us needs to take these precautions seriously, regardless of whether you’ve already had COVID-19 or not.”

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Strep throat is an illness that is common in childhood, but that doesn ’t make it any less challenging for parents — and their kids — to deal with. Strep throat comes with a number of unpleasant symptoms, and you’ll need to keep your child home from school or daycare. What causes strep throat, what are the most common symptoms, and how long is it contagious?

    What Is Strep Throat Caused By?

    Strep throat is a painful infection in the throat caused by streptococcal bacteria. This type of bacteria is extremely contagious and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or sharing food and drinks. If your child touches a surface with the bacteria, like a doorknob, and then touches their mouth or nose, the bacteria may also spread this way. Often, a person may be carrying strep without exhibiting any symptoms.

    What Are the Symptoms of Strep Throat?

    The primary symptom of strep throat is a sore, scratchy throat. However, this is typically not mild in nature. Most strep throat pain is severe. The illness is almost always accompanied by a high fever, and it can also result in body aches, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. Nausea is more common in children than adults who contract the illness. Strep throat is also indicated by swollen lymph nodes in the neck and red or white patches on the back of the throat or tonsils.

    How Is Strep Throat Treated?

    Strep throat is usually treated with antibiotics. Since it is a bacterial infection, it will not “run its course” like viral illnesses. Left untreated, streptococcal bacteria can cause inflammation of the kidneys, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and a specific type of arthritis. Symptoms can be alleviated some with over-the-counter pain relievers, eating soft foods, gargling with warm, salty water several times a day, and getting lots of rest. In cases in which very young children have contracted strep throat, or if throat pain is so severe that eating and drinking are not possible, a visit to the hospital may be necessary so fluids can be given intravenously and your child can be monitored. Recurring strep throat may be treated with a tonsillectomy, which is a simple outpatient procedure to remove the tonsils and adenoids.

    How Long Is Strep Throat Contagious?

    Unfortunately, streptococcal bacteria spread quickly, and individuals with strep throat can be contagious for up to a few days before they start showing symptoms. This means that someone who has not gotten sick yet can spread the disease. Once your child begins to show symptoms, they will continue to be contagious until they begin antibiotic treatment. After 24 hours of antibiotic treatment, strep throat is usually no longer contagious. Antibiotics can make your child feel better quickly as the bacteria begin to die off, but it’s important to finish the antibiotic treatment, even if your child seems well again.

    Suspect Strep Throat? Call the Doctor

    If your child begins to show the symptoms of strep throat, you’ll need to call the doctor and make an appointment for a sick visit. Strep throat will not resolve on its own and can cause complications if left untreated. When caught early, strep throat is usually easier to manage, and the infection is short-lived. This means less downtime for your child and less time out of school or daycare.

    At Penguin Pediatrics, we see many cases of strep throat every year, especially during cold and flu season. We will perform a strep throat test, or a throat swab, to determine if streptococcal bacteria are the cause of your child’s illness. If the test is positive, our physicians will prescribe antibiotics and discuss home care routines to help your child feel better. If your child has any medication allergies or has had reactions to certain antibiotics in the past, be sure to let your doctor know so the correct antibiotic can be given.

    Request an appointment online or call us at (571) 253-6421 (Ashburn location); or (571) 253-6842 (Stone Ridge location). We look forward to helping your children get back on their feet!

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    Your child is sniffling, sneezing, and fatigued. Is it a cold or the flu? While you can always visit the pediatrician for a more definitive answer, here are some clues as to which illness they have.

    When it comes to being sick, we’ve all heard someone say, “Don’t worry, I’m not contagious anymore.” However, they may still be spreading germs even after their symptoms pass. Understanding the different contagious periods for COVID-19, flu, cold and other viruses will help you feel confident about keeping you and your loved ones healthy!

    What is a contagious period?

    A contagious period is the timeframe an illness is transmittable from one person to another.

    The incubation period, or time before symptoms are visible, can differ among different illnesses and affect the contagious period. During this time, it’s important to be aware of what and whom you encounter. While you may not see any symptoms, you may still be contagious. Understanding your infection and its contagious period will help you and others stay healthy.

    Always remember to frequently wash your hands, keep physical distance between you and others, regularly disinfect and clean surfaces, cover your cough and sneeze and consider wearing a mask to prevent the spread of germs. face covering while in public places. Learn more on how to recognize the different symptoms of COVID-19, the flu and the common cold.

    See the chart below for further information.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Think you might have COVID-19?

    If you get COVID-19, follow the steps below. These important steps protect yourself and others.

    If you learn you have COVID-19 using a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) at home, report your positive RAT result to Queensland Health.

    Immediately isolate for 7 days

    If you get COVID-19, you need to immediately isolate yourself at your home, or other accommodation, for 7 full days from the date you had your test.

    Isolate means you need to stay away from other people as much as possible so you don’t give the virus to someone else. Find out how to isolate, including what support is available to you. If you don’t have somewhere suitable to isolate, call 134 COVID (134 268) for help.

    Tell your household contacts follow the steps for close contacts

    Tell the people that live with you that you have COVID-19. They may be close contacts and must follow the steps for close contacts.

    Manage your symptoms and health

    Most people who are fully vaccinated will be able to care for themselves at home, like you would for other viruses.

    You may have symptoms like a fever, cough, headache or a sore throat. You may feel unwell for a day or 2, and then start to feel better. Some fully vaccinated people will have no symptoms at all.

    If you’re unsure whether you need medical care for your symptoms, or you’re unsure what type of care you may need, you can:

    • use our COVID care self-checker
    • call the National Coronavirus Helpline 24/7 on 1800 020 080. Press 8 if you need an interpreter.

    Depending on your symptoms and other health conditions, you’ll be advised the right type of COVID care for you. You’ll be told if you need to see your GP or your contact details will be sent to a hospital so they can call you. Some people will be told to call Triple Zero (000).

    You should seek medical advice if you:

    • are not improving after 2 or 3 days, or are getting sicker
    • have a chronic health condition
    • are pregnant.

    Keep a COVID-19 symptom diary (PDF, 2.4 MB) , so you can track if your symptoms get worse.

    Only call Triple Zero (000) or go to an emergency department if you have severe symptoms. Read more about symptoms and medical care for COVID-19 in Queensland.

    If you need any other support while you’re in isolation, read our guide on where to get help.

    Get the things you need delivered like food and medication

    You will be in isolation for at least 7 days. It’s important you have everything you need for staying home.

    Any deliveries must be no contact.

    Ask friends or family members to get food and medication for you.

    If that isn’t possible, arrange a food delivery service. Have all food left outside your house. Do not let any delivery person into your home or accommodation.

    If you need a prescription filled, arrange this with your usual pharmacist or GP. They can deliver it to your home or accommodation, or you can let your friend or family member know where to collect the medication.

    Home care workers and other providers of essential services like nurses are allowed to enter your home. However, if you receive these services it is important that you let the service providers know that you have COVID-19 and are in isolation.

    If you live alone, make sure a friend or family member knows you are isolating, and checks in on you (by phone or video call) every few days.

    If you can’t get family or friends to help you, contact the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.

    Tell your social, work and education contacts to get tested if they have symptoms

    It’s likely you will have been in contact with other people while you were infectious.

    It is possible you may have spread the virus to others (without knowing) in the 2 days before you had symptoms or found out you have COVID-19.

    If you have been in contact with anyone during that period, you need to tell them you have COVID-19 so they can monitor their own health and get tested if they feel unwell.

    This might include your workplace or the place you study, or if you have children, the school or childcare they go to.

    Authors

    Epidemiologist | Senior Research Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University

    Epidemiologist | PhD Candidate, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University

    Epidemiologist | Senior Research Fellow, Australian National University

    Disclosure statement

    Meru Sheel receives funding from the Westpac Scholars Trust.

    Amy Elizabeth Parry and Tambri Housen do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

    Partners

    Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

    As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, a small proportion of Australians infected have now died, while most have either recovered, or are likely to recover over the next few weeks.

    One thing many of us want to know is for how long people who have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are able to pass it on to someone else.

    Let’s look at what the science tells us so far.

    How long does it take to get sick?

    The “incubation period” is the time between being exposed to the virus and the onset of symptoms.

    For COVID-19, the incubation period ranges from 1 to 14 days. But most people who develop COVID-19 symptoms do so 4 to 6 days after exposure.

    How long are you infectious?

    The “infectious period” means the time you’re able to spread the virus to someone else.

    For COVID-19, there is emerging evidence to suggest the infectious period may start 1 to 3 days before you develop symptoms.

    The most infectious period is thought to be 1 to 3 days before symptoms start, and in the first 7 days after symptoms begin. But some people may remain infectious for longer.

    Commonly reported symptoms for COVID-19 – such as fever, cough and fatigue – usually last around 9 to 10 days but this can be longer.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Why are some people infectious for longer?

    Typically with viruses, the higher the viral load (the more virus circulating in the body), the higher the risk of transmission through known transmission pathways.

    A study conducted in Hong Kong looking at viral load in 23 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 found higher viral loads in the first week of illness.

    Another study from China looking at 76 hospitalised patients found that by 10 days after symptom onset, mild cases had cleared the virus. That is, no virus was detectable through testing.

    However, severe cases have much higher viral loads and many continue to test positive beyond the 10 days after symptoms start.

    So the more severe the illness and the higher the viral load, the longer you continue to shed the virus and are infectious.

    When are you no longer infectious?

    If someone has been symptom-free for 3 days and they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days prior, they are no longer considered to be infectious.

    But we’re not sure whether people are infectious when they have recovered but the virus can still be detected in their bodies.

    One study from Hong Kong found the virus could be detected for 20 days or longer after the initial onset of symptoms in one-third of patients tested.

    Another study from China found found the virus in a patients’ faecal samples five weeks after the first onset of symptoms.

    But the detection of the virus doesn’t necessarily mean the person is infectious. We need more studies with larger sample sizes to get to the bottom of this question.

    Should you get tested again before going back into the community?

    Due to a global shortage of coronavirus tests, the Commonwealth and state governments have strict criteria about who should be tested for COVID-19 and when.

    People who have been self-quarantining, because they had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and have completed their 14-day quarantine period without developing symptoms, can return to the community. There is no requirement to be tested prior to returning to the community. It is, however, recommended they continue to practise social distancing and good hygiene as a precaution.

    The requirements are different for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

    At present, re-testing people who have experienced mild illness, and have recovered from COVID-19 is not recommended. A person is considered safe to return to the community and discontinue self-isolation if they are no longer infectious. This means they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days prior and have not experienced any symptoms for at least 3 days (72 hours).

    For people who have been hospitalised with more severe illness, the testing requirements before discharge are different. They will have two swabs taken 24 hours apart to check if they have cleared the virus. If the swabs are both negative, they can be discharged and don’t require further self-isolation.

    If one or both tests are positive but the person is well enough to go home, they must continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days since they were discharged from hospital and they have not experienced any symptoms for at least 3 days.

    There are also different testing requirements for people working or living in high-risk settings. If you work or live in a high-risk setting you should consult with your health care provider on re-testing requirements.

    The delta variant may lead to new COVID-19 symptoms. So how long are you contagious?

    How to tell when you are contagious

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    How to tell when you are contagious

    Pedestrians wear protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Queens borough of New York on May 19, 2021.

    Frank Franklin II, Associated Press

    The delta variant has changed the game when it comes to the pandemic. Health officials suggest infected people can spread the virus to five to nine people, compared to two or three with the normal variant of COVID-19.

    How long are you contagious with the delta variant?

    You could be contagious for up to two weeks with the coronavirus — no matter the variant.

    But people get sicker quicker from the delta variant, though, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.For the delta variant, it took people three to five days to test positive. But in 2020, the average positive test came on average six days after exposure.

    • “Not only were Delta-infected individuals testing positive two days earlier, on average, they were also way more infectious by the time their infections were detectible,” according to MIT.
    • The delta variant is spreading ‘like wildfire.’ Does it make people sicker?
    • Where is the delta variant in the U.S.? This CDC map might give you a clue

    That’s what we know so far about the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    • Fully vaccinated people should get tested for COVID-19 somewhere between three to five days after exposure. From there, you should wear a mask in public for 14 days until you test negative.
    • People should consider quarantining for 14 days to stop the spread of the coronavirus. You might shorten your quarantine after day 10 without testing, or day seven after testing, per the CDC.

    Is the delta variant more contagious?

    Yes. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said during a COVID-19 briefing this week that the delta variant infects more people than previous strains, like the original alpha variant, according to MarketWatch.

    • “The delta variant is highly contagious,” she said. “To put this in perspective: if you get sick with the alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people. If you get sick with the delta variant, we estimate that you can infect about five other unvaccinated people — more than twice as many as the original strain.”

    The delta variant can infect more people because infected people have higher viral loads, meaning they can transmit the virus a lot quicker.

    Published April 8, 2021

    Published April 8, 2021

    How to tell when you are contagious

    When new or recurring COVID-19 symptoms continue for weeks, you might be suffering from post-COVID syndrome (also called long COVID). Find out what are common (and less common) post-COVID symptoms, whether you’re still contagious and if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    How to know if you have post-COVID syndrome

    Pulmonologist John Dickinson, MD, PhD, has been treating many patients suffering from post-COVID syndrome. Dr. Dickinson explains, “Post-COVID is defined as new or current symptoms that persist more than eight weeks after the original infection, and the individual is no longer testing positive.”

    COVID-19 long-haulers, also called COVID-19 survivors, can experience very different post-COVID symptoms. Post-COVID symptoms often come and go.

    Common post-COVID symptoms

    • Chest pain
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath (hypoxia)
    • Tiredness or exhaustion
    • Trouble concentrating (brain fog)
    • Trouble sleeping

    Less common post-COVID symptoms

    • Anxiety or depression
    • Dizziness
    • Feeling lightheaded
    • Hair loss
    • Headaches
    • Heart palpitations (racing heart)
    • Joint or muscle pain
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Upset stomach

    Mental health concerns

    Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and PTSD have been reported in 30% or more of COVID-19 survivors.

    “As a pulmonologist, a lot of the people I see are ICU survivors. So, some of them have PTSD from their near-death experience in the ICU. COVID-19 was traumatic for those folks,” says Dr. Dickinson. But others stayed at home throughout their disease and started to experience issues with their mental health.

    “The dilemma of this post-COVID condition is that many people are never hospitalized, but they have these persistent symptoms that are distressing to them,” says Dr. Dickinson. “They often feel that no one understands them. They go to their doctor, who runs a test or does an X-ray, and it’s normal. So they feel like nobody gets what they’re going through.”

    Are people with post-COVID contagious?

    Typically, after four weeks, a long-hauler’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is negative, meaning they are not contagious. The cut-off for being contagious (and ending your quarantine) would be when you test negative on a PCR test.

    Should people with post-COVID get vaccinated?

    “I recommend that post-COVID patients get the vaccine,” says Dr. Dickinson. “I typically recommend waiting 3 months after the initial infection to get the COVID-19 vaccine.” We don’t know yet if the COVID-19 vaccines help resolve post-COVID symptoms, but they do prevent against re-infection.

    Related stories:

    How to tell when you are contagious

    What are ‘long-hauler’ effects of COVID-19?

    Many COVID-19 patients, like Steve Schrader, are finding the road to recovery longer than they hoped. See what his experience with the disease was like firsthand and how he’s doing now.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    How to fight COVID-19 at home

    Most cases of COVID-19 can be treated at home, but some widely shared advice on how to beat it is just plain wrong. See what critical care physician Brian Boer, MD, advises.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    What if I get COVID-19 after my first vaccine shot?

    What happens if you get the first vaccine, then get COVID-19 – testing positive – what about the second shot?

    Guidelines are based on the limited available data

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    How to tell when you are contagious

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    Reyhan Harmanci is feeling better. After cycling through an illness she thinks was COVID-19, with headache, fever, and nausea, her symptoms started to subside. But she lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, who’s still sick, and her young kids — and it’s getting harder to schedule a grocery delivery.

    There’s a store around the corner, but Harmanci says she’s still struggling to figure out when it’s safe for her to leave the house without infecting other people. “Everyone has a doctor friend or doctor relative who is going to tell you different things,” she says. She’s heard that she should wait seven days without fever, or seven days without any symptoms, or even as long as 40 days.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Image by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The new coronavirus is spreading through the US, and several states have made emergency declarations. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Here are the basics:

    Everything you need to know about the coronavirus

    Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people can stop isolating if they’ve been fever-free for 72 hours, their other symptoms have improved, and it’s been at least seven days since they first felt sick. The limited information available about how patients recover seems to support those guidelines, says James Hudspeth, the COVID response inpatient floor lead at Boston Medical Center.

    But patients like Harmanci are still facing conflicting advice, in part because there’s still no clear data showing just how long people who get COVID-19 are contagious. “There are a lot of questions left unanswered,” says Hudspeth.

    One study out of Germany, that hasn’t been peer-reviewed, showed that people who had COVID-19 but weren’t hospitalized had high levels of the novel coronavirus in their respiratory tract early on in their illness. The levels dropped off after four or five days of symptoms, and by the tenth day after they got sick, there was hardly any virus left. A study of hospitalized patients in China, though, found that the virus was detectable for up to 20 days after symptoms started — but levels also dropped off when the symptoms did.

    Doctors still don’t know how much of the virus is enough to infect someone else. But Hudspeth says they generally feel that if people have lower levels of the virus, the chances that they’re contagious is lower, as well.

    “That data has made us feel more assured about the CDC guidelines,” he says. “It’s reasonable that they will capture most cases, and make sure most patients are cleared to a reasonable degree.”

    Alexei Wagner, assistant director of adult emergency medicine at the Stanford Department of Emergency Medicine, also says he’s largely following CDC guidelines, with some exceptions. “Sometimes it’s easier to just tell people seven days since their last symptom,” he says. “That’s a more conservative interpretation of the guidelines.”

    Relying on symptoms can be challenging, because the illness caused by this coronavirus can come and go. Harmanci says her fever would go away and come back a few days later, and that she continued to develop new symptoms. “The shapeshifting nature of the illness makes it hard to track how you’re doing,” she says. “It adds another layer of confusion about when it’s ok to leave the house.”

    COVID-19 can also cause a wide range of symptoms, Hudspeth says — and doctor’s don’t have great answers about when or why certain symptoms appear. “We know some patients feel better, and then have more cough and shortness of breath again,” he says. Waiting three days, though, should usually give people enough time to see if they’re actually improving, he says.

    In some cases, people might be able to get tested after their symptoms improve to get a better sense of if they’ve cleared their infection — the CDC has a second set of guidelines saying that they can leave isolation if they have two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. US citizens with COVID-19 who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess were tested before they were allowed to leave isolation, for example. But it’s still challenging for most people to get tested to confirm they’re sick, and there aren’t enough tests to make it standard practice after recovery. “If we had unlimited tests, I’d recommend people get tested again to confirm,” Hudspeth says.

    Using testing as a criteria for letting people emerge form isolation comes with its own issues: the standard test checks to see if a patient has any amount of the novel coronavirus in their respiratory system, either by swabbing their nose or throat. But just because someone still has the virus in their system doesn’t necessarily mean they still have an active infection, Wagner says. Residual virus left over could still return a positive test, even if it’s not enough to be infectious.

    Scientists keep learning more about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, and as they do, guidelines around recovery will continue to change. “Does viral detection mean you’re infectious? Maybe, maybe not,” Wagner says.

    For now, people like Harmanci — and the tens of thousands of others in the US who are sick and waiting at home — are left to make decisions based on the guidelines they have right now. The anxiety around that is understandable, Hudspeth says. Until there’s more information available, being cautious makes sense. “No one wants to be the person that infects their loved ones,” he says.

    Covid is spread through close contact with people who are infected with the virus so it is important to isolate to reduce the risk of transmission

    People who live in England and Northern Ireland are now advised to follow government guidance rather than legally enforceable rules, while Covid remaining measures in Scotland and Wales are expected to be lifted later this month.

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    The change in guidance comes following a decline in infections, with scientists saying the Omicron wave in the UK has now peaked.

    The biggest change in guidance has been to self-isolation rules, which were scrapped in England last month.

    People are no longer legally obligated to stay at home if they test positive but the official advice still remains that people stay at home for five days to avoid further transmission.

    The new guidance is part of Boris Johnson’s strategy “living with Covid” which moves away from “state mandation” to “personal responsibility”.

    However, the Prime Minister has warned that the pandemic is “not over” and people are urged to remain cautious as the virus is still circulating.

    If you do fall ill with Covid, this is what you need to know about the contagious period and how long you will need to quarantine, depening on where you live in the UK.

    How long are you contagious with Covid?

    Covid is spread via small droplets in the air and is easily transmitted through close contact with people who are infected.

    It is spread when a person with the virus breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, and can be passed on even if someone does not have any symptoms.

    It can also be picked up by touching surfaces where infected droplets have landed, so it is important to thoroughly wash your hands to minimise the risk.

    People who have Covid can pass the virus to others from around two days before they start to display symptoms.

    Those infected can then remain contagious for up to 10 days after symptoms appear, according to the UK government.

    It is possible to spread the virus to others even if symptoms are mild, or non-existent, which is why you must self-isolate if you contract it.

    Read More

    • What does a faint line on lateral flow test mean? Covid test results explained – and rules if it’s positive
    • Does Omicron cause long Covid? How long symptoms last – and what we know about long-term effects of variant
    • How long do Omicron symptoms last? Length of time Covid variant stays in body – and how long you test positive

    When are you most infectious after a positive test?

    Findings from a study published in The Lancet Microbe last year suggested that people are most infectious in the first five days after the onset of symptoms.

    However, more recent research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found people are most contagious two days before and three days after they develop symptoms.

    The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that adults with mild to moderate symptoms remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin, regardless of the variant.

    However, adults with severe to critical illness, or severe immunosuppression, can still be contagious for up to 20 days after symptoms start.

    The good news is that evidence suggests people who are fully vaccinated and contract Covid can have comparable amounts of virus in their body as someone who is unvaccinated, but they were less infectious overall.

    How long do I need to self isolate?

    In England and Northern Ireland, it is not a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid.

    However, it is strongly advised that people with coronavirus stay at home for at least five days and do not go into work, although this will not be enforced by law.

    It is also no longer a requirement for people to take daily Covid tests if they have been in close contact with someone with the virus, regardless of their vaccination status.

    In Scotland and Wales, people are still legally obligated to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid.

    The Covid-19 self isolation period starts immediately from when symptoms started, or from when a positive lateral flow or PCR test was taken if you do not have any symptoms.

    In Wales, the isolation period is five full days, providing two consecutive lateral flow test results are produced 24 hours apart.

    If you get a positive result on day five, you must then get a negative test on day six and day seven before leaving isolation. This process must continue until you get two negative results in a row up to the end of day 10.

    You cannot leave quarantine earlier than the full 10 day period if you do not get two consecutive negative tests, regardless of your vaccination status.

    These rules are expected to remain in place until the end of March.

    Anyone who tests positive for coronaviIn England, Wales and Northern Ireland, anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 can leave self-isolation after five full days, on the

    In Scotland, rules require people to stay at home for at least seven days, regardless of their vaccination status.

    Isolation can end if two negative lateral flow tests are produced 24 hours apart, with the first taken no earlier than day six.

    If you get a second negative result on day seven, and do not have a temperature, you can come out of isolation. If the day six test comes back positive, you must take further tests on subsequent days until you get two negative results 24 hours apart.

    After leaving isolation, it is “strongly advised” that you limit close contact with people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and continue to work from home where possible to minimise the risk of passing the virus on to those at higher risk from Covid.

    Confirmatory PCR tests for asymptomatic people who test positive on a lateral flow device are no longer needed.

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    It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants — possibly within a day after infection

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts.

    That’s because Omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants – about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

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    With previous variants, people became contagious two to four days after infection. And people remain contagious a couple days after symptoms subside.

    Researchers say it’s too early to know whether that shorter incubation period for omicron translates into earlier contagiousness. But it would help explain the variant’s rapid spread.

    Dr. Amy Karger of the University of Minnesota Medical School recommends that people test themselves at three days and five days after exposure if possible.

    “A lot of people are turning positive by day three,” Karger says, referring to omicron. “There’s basically an opportunity here to catch people earlier than you would with the other variants.”

    If you only have one test, it’s fine to wait until day five, Karger says.

    People who have COVID-19 symptoms should get tested immediately if possible.

    Have you ever wondered how long people are contagious with COVID-19 and are still able to spread the virus to others? Scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) tried to find the answer to this sticky question.

    How to tell when you are contagious

    Dr. Jim Strong is a Senior Research Scientist at NML, working to understand the mechanisms that make COVID-19 so infectious. His team of researchers recently collaborated with Manitoba’s Cadham Provincial Laboratory to publish a paper on how long people infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others.

    How viruses attack

    “Viruses can not survive on their own, so they look to us for help” says Dr. Jim Strong, Senior Research Scientist, NML. “However, once viruses invade a person’s living cells, they can multiply exponentially and cause severe disease. If your immune system is not robust enough to fight off the virus when it first enters your body, then the bug is able to set up camp and begin wreaking havoc.”

    On their own, viruses are not necessarily harmful, but they can bring deadly disease with them. The virus that causes COVID-19 brings with it symptoms like coughing and sneezing that can spread the virus and infect other people. It seems, according to new research from NML, that the virus that causes COVID-19 only has a limited window of time to infect others. However, these are initial findings and more research is required to confirm results.

    The deadline for infection

    How to tell when you are contagious

    SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    NML Scientists led by Dr. Jim Strong conducted the largest and most diverse COVID-19 infectivity study to date in the world, looking at samples from over 90 patients. In the study, researchers compared nasal and throat samples of patients at various times from symptom onset, and measured the ability of the samples to infect lab-grown cells. The researchers used the COVID-19-positive samples to grow the virus in a controlled environment.

    After growing the virus, the researchers monitored how infectious the samples were. The researchers found that patient samples did not contain infectious material after eight days following the onset of symptoms. This means, that up until eight days, the patients can still spread the disease. After that point, patients are unlikely to spread the virus. However, these findings do not mean the virus that causes COVID-19 disappears after 8 days. The researchers found that the genetic material of the virus remained in the samples, but it was unable to grow and therefore should not infect others.

    Before this research study, there was a lack of laboratory data to understand this very important factor in the spread of COVID-19.

    “This study continues previous research conducted by other experts from around the world, but with much larger sample sizes,” says Dr. Strong. “The next step is to replicate this study on an even larger scale. The reason we do this is to ensure the findings are consistent between different and larger groups, so that we can confidently adjust public health guidelines to best protect the health of Canadians.”

    Until more studies are done, the 14-day isolation period will remain in Canada and likely many other countries. While more research will need to be conducted, this study is a major stepping-stone on the road back to normalcy.

    Gastroenteritis, also referred to as ‘stomach flu’, is inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, which causes diarrhea and vomiting.

    It can be caused by a virus, a bacteria or a parasite. Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults. In children, rotavirus is more often involved. These viruses circulate mainly in the fall and winter. Other viruses and bacteria can spread stomach flu, especially in people traveling abroad.

    Gastroenteritis is extremely contagious. You can avoid spreading and catching it through simple hygienic measures such as washing your hands.

    Symptoms

    The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are the following:

    • Diarrhea: at least 3 liquid or semi-liquid stools every 24 hours or stool that is more abundant and frequent than usual
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

    Other symptoms may sometimes appear:

    • Mild fever
    • Headache
    • Muscle pain

    Symptoms of gastroenteritis usually last 24 to 72 hours. However, they can last up to 10 days if the stomach flu began while travelling abroad or upon your return.

    Persons with gastroenteritis are usually contagious when showing symptoms, and most particularly so when symptoms are severe. They may be contagious even a few weeks after symptoms have subsided.

    If you have symptoms of gastroenteritis, it is important that you stay home to heal and to avoid transmitting the illness to other people, until all symptoms have disappeared. Should you have questions regarding your condition, contact Info-Santé 811.

    When to consult

    Gastroenteritis is generally not serious. Most people take care of themselves at home and self-heal without taking medicines. However, in some cases, you should consult a doctor or contact Info-Santé 811.

    Call Info-Santé 811

    People likely to experience complications should contact Info-Santé 811. Some cases also require evaluation by a nurse. For instance, you should call Info-Santé 811 if you or your child are in one of the following situations:

    • You have diarrhea and your stools are frequent and abundant or they contain a little blood
    • You are unable to drink or keep fluids down
    • Your diarrhea starts while travelling abroad or upon your return
    • You are unsure whether or not to see a doctor

    A nurse will give you specific advice and tell you whether or not you need to see a doctor right away.

    Consult a doctor the same day

    You should see a doctor the same day if you or your child are in one of the following situations:

    • You have diarrhea which does not subside after 48 hours despite following instructions for rehydrating and eating when you have gastroenteritis
    • You have diarrhea and fever (over 38 ºC or 100,4 ºF) for over 48 hours
    • You have been vomiting for 48 hours and the situation does not improve despite following instructions for rehydrating and eating when you have gastroenteritis
    • You have diarrhea that has persisted for over 1 week. However, if your diarrhea started during a trip abroad or upon your return, it could last more than a week

    You can find a resource near you offering medical consultation on the same or next day. To learn more or to find one of those resources, consult the Finding a resource offering medical consultation on the same or next day page.

    Go to emergency immediately

    You should go to emergency immediately if you or your child are in one of the following situations:

    • You have a lot of blood in your stool, or your stool is black
    • You have diarrhea with intense abdominal pain
    • You have diarrhea, extreme thirst, have not urinated in 12 hours
    • You are vomiting frequently, and it does not slow down after 4 to 6 hours
    • There is stool or blood (red in colour or ground coffee-like) in your vomit
    • Your general health is deteriorating (weakness, drowsiness, irritability, confusion)

    Treatment

    Rehydrating yourself and eating well are the two main ways of treating gastroenteritis. To learn more, see Hydrating and rehydrating when you have gastroenteritis and Foods to eat when you have gastroenteritis.

    Complications

    The main complication of gastroenteritis is dehydration. It occurs when the body eliminates too large a quantity of water and mineral salts, which are essential to the proper functioning of the body.

    People likely to experience complications

    Some people are more at risk of experiencing complications. They include:

    • Children less than 2 years old
    • People aged 65 years and over
    • Pregnant women
    • People with a chronic disease such as diabetes

    If you or your child are in these categories of people and show symptoms of gastroenteritis, contact Info-Santé 811. A nurse will evaluate your condition and give you the appropriate recommendations.

    Transmission

    Gastroenteritis is a contagious illness. An infected person can transmit the illness as long they have symptoms and up to 2 weeks after they have disappeared. He or she can be contagious even a few weeks after symptoms have subsided.

    Gastroenteritis can be transmitted:

    • Through consumption of contaminated water or food
    • Through direct contact with a contaminated person, for example by kissing or shaking hands, if the person’s hands are contaminated with microbes from stools
    • Through indirect contact with contaminated people or objects
      • By eating food that has been contaminated through handling by an infected person
      • By touching surfaces or objects that have been touched or handled by an infected person (example: door handles, utensils, clothes, toys)
      • By touching surfaces or objects contaminated by stool or vomit
    • Through breathing droplets spewed into the air, by vomit for instance

    Protection and prevention

    Adopt simple hygiene measures

    You can protect yourself from gastroenteritis and avoid transmission by adopting simple hygiene measures:

    • Wash your hands often
      • Before, during and after preparing meals
      • Before eating
      • Before breastfeeding or feeding a child
      • After using the toilet or having helped a child use the toilet
      • After changing a child’s diaper
    • Clean toilet seats and surfaces or objects that might have been contaminated by stool or vomit with a disinfectant
    • Put toddlers in superabsorbent diapers to prevent leakage
    • Prepare and clean feeding bottles under the cleanest possible conditions

    Vaccinate your children

    Rotavirus is the main virus responsible for gastroenteritis in children. Giving young children vaccination against this virus is the best way to protect them against gastroenteritis. Depending on the vaccine used, 2 or 3 doses are required. Children must receive the first dose of the vaccine before the age of 20 weeks and the last before 8 months.

    For information on the vaccine against rotavirus, consult a doctor or contact Info-Santé 811.