Can people without symptoms be contagious? How?

Great question – answer is YES!

Several important reasons:

  • Incubation period is median 5 days (and you are contagious during incubation period). This means you can be harboring disease, not yet showing symptoms, but pass on to others
  • Some individuals show mild (and possible no) symptoms despite having COVID-19. We don’t yet understand why this is the case. These individuals can still be contagious.
  • Small children may always have runny nose and other symptoms that can be seen with COVID-19. Since we can’t reliably distinguish their symptoms (and maybe they can’t verbalize how they feel), they may be contagious with few/no/minimal symptoms.

This is why “shelter-in-place” is so important for us to all diligently follow! Social distancing helps us prevent viral transmission, because we don’t always know who has COVID-19, and simply touching things, sneezing, coughing, or even breathing can all potentially spread the virus.


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