COVID-19: when are you most infectious?

covid 19 when are you most infectious scaled

A close friend – let’s call him John – recently called, asking for advice. He woke up with severe muscle aches and fatigue. Understandably worried that it could be COVID-19, he asked whether he should go to work, run to get a test or stay home. Because he didn’t have other symptoms, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, he was unsure what to do. Of course, this could be any other respiratory infection, such as the flu or the common cold, but what if it is COVID-19? What is the risk of him transmitting the virus to others?

To understand when people with COVID-19 are most likely to be infectious, our team conducted a study which was recently published in The Lancet Microbe.

We investigated three things: viral load (how the amount of the virus in the body changes throughout infection), viral shedding (the length of time someone sheds viral genetic material, which does not necessarily mean a person is infectious), and isolation of the live virus (a better indicator of a person’s infectiousness, as the live virus is isolated and tested to see if it can replicate in the laboratory).

We found that viral load reached its peak in the throat and nose (which is thought to be the main source of transmission) very early in the disease, particularly from the first day of symptoms to day five of symptoms – even in people with mild symptoms.…

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