CORONAVIRUS: How long to self-isolate?

New CDC updates on self isolation. What is self isolation? How is it different than quarantine? What do the latest CDC updates mean for us and how do they protect our health?

The CDC provided several key updates on what to do if we are sick. Importantly, they addressed the most pressing question: how long to self isolate.

Since most of us will not be tested for COVID-19 if we are sick, these guidelines are key. Note this is different than guidelines for quarantine (explained below).

CDC increased number of days needed to isolate in “sick room”

If you are sick and have not been tested for COVID-19, you must self-isolate until:

  • No fever for at least 72 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, AND
  • Progressive improvement of other symptoms (like cough or shortness of breath), AND
  • 10 days have passed since your symptoms started.
    • This was previously 7 days!

Several other noteworthy findings

  • If you come in contact with high risk individuals, you may need to isolate for longer. You’ll need to discuss with your doctor how much longer.
    • Immunocompromised individuals may have prolonged viral shedding and may also need to isolate for longer, too.
  • SARS-CoV-2 can be detected from body specimens (from nose, mouth, feces) for up to 6 weeks. However, the infectious capability of that virus appears to go away at 10 days after symptoms onset.
    • This is why the minimum time for self-isolation has increased from 7 to 10 days.

Quarantine vs self isolation

Lastly, note that self isolation is for people who are sick. Quarantine is for people who have been exposed but are not yet sick.

  • “Exposed” means close contact (within 6 feet) of someone for a prolonged period of time with COVID-19 (or being tested for it).
    • “Exposed” also includes being coughed or sneezed on.
  • Quarantine means staying home for 14 days and limiting contact with others.
    • Why 14 days? Nearly all coronavirus infections will show symptoms by 14 days. If you have no symptoms by 14 days you may return to your usual activities.
  • Self isolation means strict staying away from all healthy people in the household (eg staying in a sick room).

That’s all for now. Stay safe everybody!


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The information provided in this post in intended for general education. It is not medical advice. While I make every effort to provide the most up-to-date information, please note that new data is continuously becoming available and may change the conclusions I present here.

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