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If I'm An Asymptomatic Coronavirus Carrier, How Long Will I Be Contagious?

With coronavirus causing massive disruption in the workplace, many people are wondering how they'll pay the bills if they can't work. (Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)
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We’re asking public health officials and experts to answer your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep in mind that this information does not constitute professional medical advice. For questions regarding your own health, always consult a physician.

An audience member who only identified himself as Joe wanted to know, “If you are an asymptomatic carrier, how long will the virus live and how long will you be contagious?”

Here’s an explanation from Dr. Shruti Gohil with the University of California Irvine Medical Center, who’s helping lead the effort to prepare the hospital for COVID-19:

“Everything that we have seen so far verifies the experience in China. Once you acquire the illness, you may be infectious to other people for up to 14 days. Now, those who are asymptomatic may not know when Day 1 starts to start counting to Day 14. But it's encouraging to know that while asymptomatic individuals can get sick, their ability to spread the disease is far less than those who are actively symptomatic, who have secretions, who are coughing, who can take this virus and spread it around to other people.”

So what we really need to think about when it comes to asymptomatic individuals, Gohil said, is this: when do they spread?
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“It's when you share the same straw, you share the same drink, you were at a restaurant in a pub and you shared utensils. And when we cut out activities like this, that is the meaning behind the social distancing strategies that have been put into place — [it’s] that we're cutting out this type of activity, so that those asymptomatic spreaders then minimize that spread. That is the reason why we're doing this, not so much because coronavirus is in and of itself so dangerous to the vast majority of patients. It's more that [cutting] its circulation by common sense strategies like this will go far.”


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