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Exposure to COVID-19

Finding out you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 inspires questions and fears for many people. When it comes to COVID-19 testing, you might be thinking:

             “Do I still need to quarantine for 14 days if I was around someone who has Covid19?”

             “How long does it take to experience coronavirus disease symptoms after exposure?”

             “How long can people with COVID19 be infectious for?”

All these worries and concerns don’t just apply to ourselves but also our friends, colleagues, families, and even strangers in our community. Luckily, there is more information available about COVID-19 than ever and more is being learned every day.

Let’s review some of the current best practices to follow after exposure to COVID-19, including guidelines for social distancing and quarantine, when to get tested, and what symptoms to be on the lookout for.

CDC Close Contact Definition

The CDC close contact definition applies if you were within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour period, regardless of if one or both of you were wearing a mask.

It’s important to know that the 15 minutes do not have to be consecutive. If you saw someone for five minutes three times in 24 hours, that would still meet the definition of a close contact.

What does it mean to have close contact with someone who ends up being COVID-19 positive? Ultimately, this means you are at increased risk of infection. However, there are many factors at play. Masks do reduce the likelihood of transmission, as does being outside or in a well-ventilated area. And, if you are vaccinated, the CDC guidelines indicate you should only be concerned about close contact if you start to develop symptoms.

What Do I Do if I’ve Been Exposed to Someone Who Tested Positive for COVID-19?

The recommended actions after you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 depend largely on if you have been vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals are not only less likely to get sick with COVID-19, they also appear less likely to transmit it to non-vaccinated people in emerging studies.

If you have been vaccinated, you should monitor for symptoms and get tested right away if they start to develop. Otherwise, you do not need to quarantine, miss work, or get tested.

For unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19, the action steps include:

  • Stay home and quarantine for 14 days.
  • Monitor for symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, and cough.
  • Take precautions to isolate yourself from others, especially those who have pre-existing conditions that make them high-risk for a severe case of COVID-19.

You may want to know how soon after exposure to Covid are you contagious to avoid what you consider unnecessary time spent in quarantine.

A person is generally COVID-19 contagious within 48-72 hours after exposure, but may not start to develop symptoms until several days after becoming contagious. This is why it’s important for unvaccinated individuals to begin quarantine as soon as they know they have been exposed, and not wait to develop symptoms. By the time they start to develop symptoms they may have already infected others.

You should not ignore those first essential days of isolation after you know you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. But it is possible to be able to quarantine for less than 14 days if you are COVID-19 negative.

While the CDC still endorses a full 14-day quarantine, they have shared additional guidance for local public health departments who may want or need their policies to differ. 

If you get tested on day five of isolation and the result is negative, you might be able to stop quarantine on day seven.

If you do not get tested but also do not develop symptoms, you might be able to stop quarantine on day 10.

Check with your state or county board of health to learn what recommendations and rules are currently in effect in your area, as well as your workplace or school to learn the policies they may have enacted.

How Long to Quarantine After a Positive COVID Test

When you test positive for COVID-19, the question of how long to quarantine is connected to when you start and stop showing symptoms, as well as when you had a positive COVID-19 test.

If you test positive but never show symptoms (asymptomatic) then you must isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the date of your positive test result, depending on the local guidelines in your area.

If your symptoms include a fever, you must isolate for at least 10 days from the start of your symptoms and not leave isolation until you have gone 24 hours without a fever, without any fever-reducing medication. This means if your fever comes back when your Tylenol or other medicine wears off, you should continue to quarantine until the fever is fully gone.

Your other symptoms of COVID-19 must also be improving to leave quarantine. If your fever goes away but your cough, shortness of breath, and other symptoms are worsening, you should stay in quarantine until symptoms improve.

People who are severely ill with COVID-19 or who have compromised immune systems may need to stay in quarantine for 20 days or more. In many of these cases, COVID-19 testing will inform your decision to leave quarantine safely.

Should I Get Tested If I Had Close Contact with Someone Who Has COVID19?

If you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested if you develop symptoms, or 5-7 days after your close contact to confirm if you are COVID-19 negative or not.

Getting tested after close contact is also a question of how long after exposure to get tested. While you might want to go get tested for COVID-19 the moment you find out you have been exposed, this won’t necessarily give you a result that means anything.

Within the first 24 hours after being exposed to COVID-19, individuals are highly unlikely to be contagious, which means they are also unlikely to test positive. Both contagion and a positive test relate to the amount of the virus in your body (also known as the viral load). If the virus hasn’t had time to multiply yet, the test won’t be able to detect it.

Within 48-72 hours, as we mentioned earlier, many COVID-19 positive individuals do become contagious. But that still doesn’t mean a test will be 100% accurate, depending on the type of COVID-19 test that is used and other factors.

Generally, a COVID-19 test is most accurate 5-7 days after the individual has been exposed.

So if you’re wondering, “how soon after exposure to Corona can I be tested?” the answer is as soon as you want. However, for the results to be meaningful and give you full peace of mind, individuals without symptoms can wait as many as 5 days to get the test.

Coronavirus Symptoms Day By Day

COVID-19 symptoms day by day vary depending on the severity of the case and other factors. For instance, how long is it between when a person is exposed to the virus and when they start showing symptoms? Some people start showing symptoms within 48-72 hours while others never show symptoms at all.

 With that said, researchers and doctors can provide an estimated timeline of COVID-19 symptoms based on the average incubation period of the COVID-19 virus.

  • The first symptom of COVID-19 is usually a fever, which can develop within 2 days of exposure. 99% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have a fever which lasts for an average of 12 days.
  • The fever is usually followed by a dry, unproductive cough within the next several days.
  • By day 4 of the virus, 50% of patients have fatigue and a dry cough, while 33% experience shortness of breath and muscle pain/fatigue.
  • Day 5 is when many patients begin to experience more severe shortness of breath, especially older patients or those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Day 7 is around the time when patients with severe cases begin to be admitted to the hospital.
  • Days 8-10 are when symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDs) begin to develop. This condition occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs, preventing patients from being able to get enough air for organ function.
  • Day 10 is an average timeline for someone with a severe case of COVID-19 to be admitted to intensive care. The average COVID-19 patient who is admitted to the hospital stays for ten days.
  • Days 13 and 14 are the average end of symptoms for those who recover from the virus.
  • For those who do not survive the virus, the average timeline from onset of symptoms to death is 18-19 days.

It is important to note that in some cases, the onset of symptoms does not begin until later in the illness. This means the timeline would be extended.

We also continue to learn more about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on peoples’ health. Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection (PASC) is also referred to colloquially as “Long-COVID.” These patients recover from the initial phases of COVID-19 but continue to display other symptoms for months. Recent studies have shown as many as 40% of COVID-19 patients who did not require hospitalization still continue to suffer symptoms seven months or more after their infection with the virus. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Inflammation of or damage to organs like heart, lungs, and kidneys

For each patient the timeline of COVID-19 symptoms day by day is different, as is their long-term recovery from the virus. Some may never fully recover.

Tips for COVID-19 Quarantine After Exposure

Whether you experience no symptoms, mild symptoms, or have a severe case, many people required to quarantine wonder how to navigate without being able to leave the house. Here are some tips that might help you prepare in advance, or adapt when unexpected quarantine becomes necessary.

  • Plan to stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom than others in your home, if possible. You should not share a bed or enclosed sleeping area with other individuals at this time.
  • Open windows in the room where you are isolated to keep air circulating and minimize your re-exposure to the virus.
  • Wear a mask when around other individuals that may live with you.
  • Do not make contact with outside visitors.
  • Cover both your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid close contact with pets, as they can also become infected with the virus, though they are unlikely to transmit it to others.
  • Don’t share personal items like cups, glasses, sheets, and towels.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, toilet flushers, light switches, and any other contacted surfaces at least once per day if not more.
  • Make sure any hand sanitizer you are using is at least 60% alcohol.
  • Don’t shake dirty laundry, and wash clothing and other items on the warmest possible setting. Don’t forget to disinfect clothes baskets or hampers before putting clean clothes inside.
  • Keep a supply of acetaminophen to take for fever. In cases of COVID specifically, acetaminophen is preferred to ibuprofen.
  • Stay hydrated with water, avoiding high-sugar beverages and caffeinated beverages that can be dehydrating.
  • Breathe in steam from a hot shower or humidifier to help with coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Sip on broth or warm liquids to ease sore throat from coughing and take in nutrients.
  • If your cough produces mucus, take cough medicine or another medicine with an expectorant to help you cough it up. Make sure to throw away all tissues immediately in a trash can with a liner, and that they are disposed of without putting others at risk using gloves, mask, and disinfecting.
  • Even when gloves are used, caretakers should also wash their hands after handling any used dishes, utensils, laundry, or other items that may be exposed to the virus.
  • Don’t touch the outside of your mask or handle someone else’s mask.
  • Allow yourself to rest, and do not try to work or be too active while you are sick with COVID-19. Your body has work to do to help you recover!

Reliable Public and Private Testing After Exposure to COVID-19

Being exposed to COVID-19 is cause for concern. According to the World Health Organization, as of July 2021 there were over 184 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 3,990,000 deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic. No one wants to be the next statistic, and with insights that prevent exposure we can continue to slow and stop the pandemic.

BioCollections Worldwide is proud to be a leader in COVID-19 testing for both individuals and organizations. Whether you want to walk in and get a COVID-19 test for yourself or need to plan for your employees and colleagues to be tested on a large scale after a COVID-19 exposure, we are here to support. We have been leaders in virus testing for decades and have the staff, experience, compassion, and discretion to provide the insights you need quickly and accurately.

We serve these metropolitan locations in the United States:

  • Miami
  • Tampa
  • Orlando
  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • Las Vegas

Additionally, we have affiliates and subsidiaries in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

If you are concerned about a recent COVID-19 exposure, you are not alone. Contact BioCollections Worldwide today to schedule your test and better understand your road to recovery.

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