COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus that spreads very easily from person to person. You can be contagious for up to 10 days following symptom onset. The same is true for the Delta variant, a highly contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus.
What is COVID-19?
There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. The names come from their appearance, which is covered with spike proteins surrounding them like a crown, with “Corona” meaning “crown.” COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is a type of Coronavirus.
It is a respiratory disease that spreads through droplets from person to person, when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. While some infected people do not display any symptoms, many experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. Adults 65 years old and older are at higher risk for experiencing severe symptoms.
How Long Are You Contagious with the Coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that those with mild to moderate COVID-19 are contagious for up to 10 days from symptom onset. For those who are immunocompromised, they could be contagious for up to 20 days.
If you begin experiencing symptoms or test positive, you should self-isolate so as not to infect others. The CDC recommends:
- Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
- Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
- Wear a mask when around other people if able.
When You Can Be Around Others If You Had COVID-19
According to the CDC, most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others. If your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on test results.
If You Think Or Know You Had COVID-19
You can be around others after:
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving
If You Have Been Around a Person Who Has COVID-19
If you have been around a person who has COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you should stay home for 14 days after your last exposure to that person.
However, if you have been around someone with COVID-19 and meet the following criteria, you do not need to stay home:
- If you have been fully vaccinated and show no symptoms of the virus (the CDC still recommends getting tested 3 to 5 days after exposure even if you do not have symptoms. They also recommend wearing a mask indoors for 14 days following exposure).
- If you have had COVID-19 within the last 3 months and recovered and no longer have COVID-19 symptoms
How Does the Coronavirus Spread in Humans?
Researchers know that the virus spreads through droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or even talks. These droplets are then released into the air and can stay there for extended periods of time, especially in indoor spaces and areas with poor ventilation.
These droplets can then be breathed in by others through their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some cases, the droplets might contaminate the surfaces they land on.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
- Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
- Having these small droplets and particles that contain the virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
- Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.
How Easily Does Coronavirus Spread?
COVID-19 is extremely contagious. Infected individuals can begin to show symptoms within 48 hours or up to 14 days of exposure.
What is Community Spread of COVID-19?
Community spread, according to the CDC, means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions.
Can I Spread COVID-19 If I Don’t Have Symptoms?
Yes, the virus can still be spread even if you are not showing any symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic spread.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include some or all of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
How Can I Protect Myself From COVID-19?
To reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, the CDC recommends taking the following measures:
- Vaccinations are available
- If you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older, wear a mask in indoor public places.
- If you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
How is COVID-19 Currently Being Monitored?
Hospitals, health departments, and government institutions are regularly monitoring the spread and mutations of the virus by genomic sequencing of select positive COVID-19 samples, according to the suggestions of the CDC. One solution adopted by countries around the world is the Paragon Genomics CleanPlex® SARS-CoV-2 Panel. This panel has been effectively used for a significant number of epidemiology studies to help researchers and epidemiologists better understand the virus.
Frequently Asked Questions
With Coronavirus how long are you contagious?
You can be contagious for up to 10 days. Individuals with immunocompromised systems can be contagious for up to 20 days.
How long are you contagious with coronavirus after symptoms?
You can be contagious for up to 10 days after symptom onset.
How long is COVID contagious?
If you have COVID-19, you can still spread the virus for up to 10 days from symptom onset.
How long after COVID exposure are you contagious?
If you have been exposed to the virus, it can take anywhere from 48 hours to 14 days for it to produce symptoms. From symptom onset, the virus can spread for up to 10 days.