Key lessons learned
- How long COVID-19 stays in the body varies from person to person. In general, people are no longer contagious about 10 days after the onset of symptoms.
- A recent study found that people can be infected with the virus for an 83-day period, showing the importance of regular testing, isolation, and isolation practices.
- Infectious disease experts reaffirm that the best protection against COVID is vaccination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus now accounts for 99% of COVID cases in the United States. With the festive season in full swing, gatherings with loved ones can become a breeding ground for the virus — including any new variants that emerge.
To help limit the spread, you must understand how long you can still pass the virus on to others. In other words, how long does COVID stay in your system?
Here’s what experts have to say to Verywell about how long COVID stays in your body, as well as what you need to know to prevent transmission.
According to Kristen Nichols, PharmD, BCPS, BCPPS, BCIDP, an infectious disease specialist, the length of time people have COVID varies from person to person.
“Most people with mild to moderate illness are no longer contagious 10 days after the onset of symptoms,” Nichols said. “But it could be longer for patients who have experienced severe illness, or who are immunocompromised.”
That could be the case for people who repeatedly experience COVID symptoms for weeks or even months after infection — so-called “long COVID.”
For example, in a recent study, most participants still had symptoms such as fatigue and cognitive dysfunction more than seven months after they became ill.
While COVID viral load appears to peak during the first week of illness, upper respiratory tract virus shedding occurs 83 days later.
Test positive for COVID
Nichols said that if you test positive but have no symptoms, you “should be isolated for 10 days from the time you test positive”.
If you already have COVID, you can start seeing others after you meet certain criteria:
- It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms started
- You have been free of fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicine
- Your symptoms are getting better and you don’t have any new symptoms
Isolation vs Isolation
According to the CDC, quarantine is when you separate yourself from others because you’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID — even if you don’t feel sick.
If you are quarantined, you will need to stay home for at least 14 days after seeing someone with COVID, stay away from others, and monitor for symptoms (such as fever or difficulty breathing).
What would you do if you were vaccinated and you were exposed? Jennifer Haythe, MD, associate professor of medicine and co-director of the Columbia Women’s Heart Center, tells Verywell that if you’re fully vaccinated, “you don’t need to be isolated unless you develop symptoms. ” and “you should test 5 to 7 days after exposure.”
What if I am fully immunized?
According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated and have been in contact with someone with COVID, you do not need to be isolated unless you have symptoms.
However, the CDC states that fully vaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with a person with COVID “should be tested 5-7 days after they were exposed, even if they are asymptomatic and wear masks indoors in public for 14 days after exposure or until their test results are negative. “
Isolation is when you avoid others because of you maybe have been in contact with someone with COVID but you’re not sure and you’re not sure you could get sick.
While you are in quarantine, the CDC recommends that you:
- Monitor your symptoms
- Stay in a separate room from other people living in your home
- Use a private bathroom if possible
- Avoid contact with other people in your home, including your pets
- Do not share personal items, such as cups, towels, and utensils
- Wear a mask if you have to be around other people
Check and Check again
Nichols recommends waiting until you have at least two negative COVID tests, 24 hours apart, to resume any activities that involve you in public and around other people.
If you test positive for COVID, Nichols says someone shouldn’t go out in public until they meet all of the CDC’s criteria “even if their 10th day of quarantine has passed.” “.
However, Nichols also cautions that PCR tests sometimes give a positive COVID test result even if a person is not able to clear the virus.
“Because there’s so much variation, we don’t know for sure,” Nichols said. “If someone continues to test positive after the quarantine period is over and suspects that they are no longer contagious, they should speak with their healthcare provider to determine how long. appropriate time to maintain isolation.”
While regular testing, isolation and quarantine can help limit the spread, experts agree that vaccination is the best protection.
“The best way to avoid getting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” says Haythe. “It is safe and very effective in preventing transmission and serious illness and hospitalization.”
If you hope to celebrate with loved ones in the coming weeks, you can take steps to keep everyone safe. Haythe says that “before gathering indoors with family and friends on holiday, consider getting everyone tested with quick home tests.”
What does this mean for you?
How long COVID stays in the body is different for each person. That is one reason why it is important that you take steps to protect others if you are sick or think you have been in contact with someone who may have been.
If you have COVID or may have been in contact with someone, you can help limit the spread of the virus by staying away from others, monitoring your symptoms, and getting tested.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available as you read. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.
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