When can infected people transmit COVID-19?


The year 2020 has changed the economic, political, and social landscape of the world. The force single-handedly responsible for this drastic shift is a class of virus called the novel Coronavirus, which is known to cause severe acute respiratory syndrome among those infected.

Given the unique characteristics of the virus, there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the nature of the illness, its modes of transmission, the potential health implications, and the most effective treatment protocols. To resiliently combat the current situation, we must educate ourselves about this virus and its nature of transmission and thereon, and follow the precautions as advised by experts worldwide.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

COVID-19 , the infection caused by the virus now scientifically known as the SARS COV-2, is contagious and is transmitted from person to person. The virus is known to enter a human body through the nose, mouth, or eyes and affects the respiratory system causing shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, and in some extreme cases, even death.

The incidence of death is comparatively lower than the recovery rates from the data available to date. So while the SARS COV-2 virus may be fatal on some occasions, many have recovered with only mild symptoms.

Since there aren’t any vaccines or preventive drugs available yet to counter Covid-19, the most robust method to protect oneself from it would be to arrest the virus’s spread by breaking the chain. The virus is transmitted from one person to another through respiratory droplets. This can happen when one comes in contact with an infected person within 6 feet of another, and the infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks.

What are the modes of transmission of COVID-19?

Medical research affirms that the most rampant form of the transmission of Covid-19 is through human contact. That is why the first step towards arresting the spread of this virus is to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from another person, irrespective of whether one is infected. Experts have deduced that there are different ways in which an infected person can transmit the virus.

● Droplets or aerosols. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets or tiny particles called aerosols carry the virus into the air from their nose or mouth. Anyone who is within 6 feet of that person can breathe it into their lungs.

● Airborne transmission. Research shows that the virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours. It can get into your lungs if someone who has it breathes out and you breathe that air in.

● Surface transmission. Another way to catch the new coronavirus is when you touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on. You may touch a countertop or doorknob that’s contaminated and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes. The virus can live on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for 2 to 3 days. To stop it, clean and disinfect all counters, knobs, and other surfaces you and your family touch several times a day.

When can an infected person spread COVID-19?

Given the contagious nature of the disease, we can now claim with some authority that the primary mode of transmission of Covid-19 is contact with human respiratory secretions, whether through the air or surface or even through direct physical intimacy. But an affected person is not infective indefinitely .It is crucial to understand when an infected person can spread the virus.

Symptomatic Persons

An infected person manifesting symptoms like fever, cough, breathing trouble, body aches, etc. can spread the virus through respiratory secretions like cough droplets or saliva or through direct contact. If you’re in an enclosed place with a symptomatic person, your susceptibility to contracting it remains high.

Asymptomatic Persons

Not everyone who contacts the coronavirus develops the given symptoms. The underlying health conditions of the body, immunity are factors which have direct bearings on the manifestation of symptoms. But this does not rule out the possibility of one being infected nevertheless. In such cases, an asymptomatic person can, through direct or indirect contact, transmit it within 8-9 days of carrying the virus.

Pre-symptomatic Persons

Research denotes that an infected person is likely to carry the virus approximately 1-4 days before the onset of the symptoms. At this stage, direct or indirect contact with such a person can also result in the transmission of Covid-19.

When is a COVID -19 affected person considered non infectious If someone has been symptom-free for 3 days and they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days prior, they are no longer considered to be infectious. People who have been self-quarantining, because they had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and have completed their 14-day quarantine period without developing symptoms, can return to the community. There is no requirement to be tested prior to returning to the community. It is, however, recommended they continue to practise social distancing and good hygiene as a precaution.

The requirements are different for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

At present, re-testing people who have experienced mild illness, and have recovered from COVID-19 is not recommended. A person is considered safe to return to the community and discontinue self-isolation if they are no longer infectious. This means they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days prior and have not experienced any symptoms for at least 3 days (72 hours). For people who have been hospitalised with more severe illness, the testing requirements before discharge are different. They will have two swabs taken 24 hours apart to check if they have cleared the virus. If the swabs are both negative, they can be discharged and don’t require further self-isolation.

If one or both tests are positive but the person is well enough to go home, they must continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days since they were discharged from hospital and they have not experienced any symptoms for at least 3 days.

How can I prevent the spread of the SARS COV-2?

Being infected with SARS COV-2 does not necessarily imply critical care and hospitalization. You can recover from Covid-19 at your own homes by practicing adequate hygiene and care. Top health service providers like Apollo Hospitals have also launched comprehensive home care packages for patients to care for themselves and their loved ones at their own homes.

But, as they say, prevention is better than cure. So, following some of the fundamental guidelines like wearing a mask when around others, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, consistently washing and sanitizing our hands after touching any surface and avoiding touching our face with our hands can avert the risk of Covid-19.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

● What is meant by the community spread of Covid-19?

Since the most common mode of transmission of Covid-19 is human contact, it is sometimes possible to trace the source of infection to the infected person. But, in the current context, when there has been mass infection and infection by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic persons are common, it becomes difficult to trace the source of contact. This is called community transmission.

● Does wearing a mask help in arresting the transmission of Covid-19?

WHO recommends wearing a mask, especially three-layered masks, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from an infected person.