The latest guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommend people who contract COVID-19 isolate for at least five days, followed by five days of strict mask use. As the new, more contagious omicron subvariants account for a growing number of cases across the country, some wonder if the infections last longer and if you’re contagious for a longer period of time.
Despite the length of positivity and contagiousness of BA4. and the BA.5 omicron subvariants, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she does not anticipate any changes to isolation or quarantine protocols. She noted, however, that some people stay positive for longer.
“I wouldn’t say the incubation period is getting shorter…it’s getting shorter than it was originally, but we often see people just having respiratory symptoms seniors or have a cold, they sometimes have a sore throat, they have a fever or don’t see much of this serious illness – especially in people who are up to date with the vaccine because the secondary part of your immune system comes into action and helps – but we see people that they can stay positive for a bit longer,” Arwady said on Tuesday.
Generally, a person with COVID-19 is considered infectious from two days before they develop symptoms, or two days before the date of their positive test if they do not have symptoms, according to the CDC. . Even with the later subvariants, the isolation tips remain the same.
As long as their symptoms have improved, most people are no longer contagious five days after the first symptoms.
However, this is not true in all cases.
A recent Boston University study found that only 17% of people were likely still infectious six days after their first positive test. But a University of Chicago Medical Center study published earlier this year contradicts CDC recommendations, finding that more than 40% of vaccinated healthcare workers still tested positive for COVID-19 five to 10 days after onset. of their symptoms.
As a precaution, those coming out of the five-day isolation window should participate in strict mask use for an additional five days, according to the guidelines.
According to the CDC, data suggests that patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset. People with severe to critical illness resulting from COVID infection are unlikely to be contagious 20 days after symptoms start.
Although likely no longer infectious after that, patients could test positive for COVID months after they recover.
PCR tests are “very sensitive”, Arwady previously said, adding that they can “remain positive for a long time”.
“They keep picking up dead virus in your nose for sometimes weeks, but you can’t grow that virus in the lab,” she said. “You can’t spread it, but it can be positive.”