This Is When Coronavirus Is Most Contagious

The most dangerous part about COVID-19 might be when it's most likely to spread, a new study finds.

The highly contagious nature of COVID-19 has been one of the reasons the virus developed into a full-blown pandemic. Coronavirus has the ability to spread through the air, on surfaces, and through contact with others—and worse yet, in many cases, people can spread the virus for days or weeks without even showing symptoms. But a recent study has shed light on exactly when those with COVID-19 are most contagious—and the results are alarming. It turns out, the highest risk period of transmission is two to three days before you show symptoms.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, was conducted by researchers out of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control in China. In their research, they found that patients are most likely to spread COVID-19 up to 72 hours before they show signs of having contracted the virus. That's part of the reason why coronavirus is so difficult to track and control before large outbreaks develop within communities.

The study also compares the most highly contagious periods of COVID-19 to other diseases. Typical seasonal flu patients are most contagious one day after the onset of symptoms, while the coronavirus responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak peaks a full 10 days after symptoms begin. This, in part, explains the increased likelihood of novel coronavirus patients spreading the disease, especially among anyone they live or work with.

The study authors say that, based on their findings, they suggest a shift in the way COVID-19 outbreak control measures are developed and executed. Countries such as Germany have led the way in using preventive measures such as contact tracking smartphone apps to alert anyone who has been exposed to coronavirus. Of course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that the easiest approach is to simply practice social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands. And for more information on how to check if you've been exposed to COVID-19, check out The Secret Way You Can Get a Free Coronavirus Antibody Test.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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