“I have Covid” – a dreaded text message or phone call that no one wants to receive, and one that starts you down the path of trying to figure out what comes next. If you’ve had an exposure to COVID-19 recently, you may have questions about what you need to do, and we have compiled some answers to help you navigate this process. From COVID-19 testing to contagious periods, let’s dive in and look at the details.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is the two to 14 day period of time when the virus is building up in your body. When SARS-CoV-2 enters your body through your nose, mouth, or eyes, it immediately finds healthy cells and infiltrates them. Once inside, the virus uses the cell like a factory to produce lots more virus particles. When the “factory” is bursting with new copies of the virus, it breaks open and those little clones are released into your body to go break into other cells and repeat this process.
The incubation period is the time while the virus is breaking into cells and making lots of copies to infect your entire body. Because people have different immune systems, this can be a shorter or longer process in each individual, thus the 2 to 14 day where each person has a slightly different timeline.
If you’re wondering how long after exposure would someone spread COVID19, the current guidelines look at the incubation period of the virus. That period is thought to be the two to 14 days between exposure and symptom onset, with symptoms typically appearing within four or five days after exposure.
This is complicated by the contagious period. People with COVID-19 are presumed to be contagious 48 hours before symptoms begin through 10 days after. That 12 day contagious period doesn’t necessarily begin on the second day after exposure, since your incubation period may be shorter or longer than other people.
This gets further complicated by people who are asymptomatic and who never develop symptoms. For those individuals, the contagious period is calculated based on the date of the positive test – two days before through 10 days after. This is why getting tested at the right time to catch a possible COVID-19 infection is important. If you test too early, you may not have enough of the viral load in your body for the test to detect it, though you would still be contagious at that time.
In general, taking precautions like wearing masks, washing your hands, and social distancing are important to help stop the spread of COVID-19, since you cannot always know for sure if you are contagious or not.
There are a few different recommendations for getting tested after a COVID-19 exposure, and you should consult your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. One recommendation is to get tested immediately, and then get re-tested a few days later to confirm that first result. Another recommendation is to wait until day four or five after your exposure to be tested since the virus takes time to build up in your body.
Whatever your doctor recommends is the course of action you should follow. Remember that it is important to quarantine to keep others safe while you figure out if you are contagious or not.
After recovery, the CDC states that you may continue to test positive for three months or more even though you are not contagious to other people. This is still being studied, and scientists are working on understanding why people are getting positive test results after recovery from COVID-19. How long the antibodies stay in your system after recovery is also still being studied.
Because of the high likelihood that you will have a positive test result, it is recommended that you only get tested after recovery if you develop new COVID-19 symptoms. You should talk with your doctor if you need to be tested after recovery, especially if you have had exposure to covid in the last 14 days.
If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 recently, we know how scary that news can be. As the first lab in the US doing testing for SARS-CoV-2, BioCollections Worldwide has been on the forefront and leading the way since the beginning of this pandemic. We know how important it is to have a quick and reliable COVID-19 testing experience so you can be on your way to good health. Click here to learn more about our testing locations and about our customer-oriented solutions.