How long are you infectious? COVID-19 patients struggle to find an answer

| | April 2, 2020
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Reyhan Harmanci is feeling better. After cycling through an illness she thinks was COVID-19, with headache, fever, and nausea, her symptoms started to subside. …

Harmanci says she’s still struggling to figure out when it’s safe for her to leave the house without infecting other people.

Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people can stop isolating if they’ve been fever-free for 72 hours, their other symptoms have improved, and it’s been at least seven days since they first felt sick. The limited information available about how patients recover seems to support those guidelines, says James Hudspeth, the COVID response inpatient floor lead at Boston Medical Center.

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But patients like Harmanci are still facing conflicting advice, in part because there’s still no clear data showing just how long people who get COVID-19 are contagious.

In some cases, people might be able to get tested after their symptoms improve to get a better sense of if they’ve cleared their infection — the CDC has a second set of guidelines saying that they can leave isolation if they have two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. … But it’s still challenging for most people to get tested to confirm they’re sick, and there aren’t enough tests to make it standard practice after recovery.

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