How long does the Coronavirus remain in the human body?

How long does the Coronavirus remain in the human body?

Most people are likely to be contagious with COVID-19 for ten days.

People are usually most contagious in the first five days after diagnosis.

Antibodies to the virus can persist for several months after infection or vaccination.

Emergency room visits for COVID-19 are rising across the country, suggesting that cases of the virus are also rising. If you contract the Coronavirus, it's understandable to wonder how long it stays in your system, both in terms of infection and protective antibodies.

As with every disease, there is a range. But as a general rule, here's what you should know.

How long are you contagious?

There is some variation in how long you can remain contagious with COVID-19, Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, told Verywell. "Most people no longer have detectable infectious particles by day 10, but it can vary," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has isolation information for people with COVID-19 that indicates patients are most likely to be contagious within the first five days after they test positive for COVID-19. However, CDC recommendations suggest that people wear masks up to 10 days after a positive test result to avoid infecting others.

The CDC also said online that people with severe symptoms of COVID-19 may be contagious for more than ten days and may need to isolate for up to 20 days.

"If you are immunocompromised, you are likely to remain infectious for a much longer time — 20 days versus ten days as well," Russo stated.

"Children tend to test positive for longer," William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Verywell.

How long does it take to get rid of COVID-19?

Schaffner explained that viral shedding is a term used to describe how long the virus is still detected in your body after you become ill. When you "shed" a virus, you may be able to infect others.

"Over time, the amount of virus you get rid of decreases," Schaffner said.

Not all shedding of the virus will make someone else sick, especially if it is shed at low levels.

It's unclear how the spread of the virus has changed during the pandemic, but there is data about how long it may last now. One study published in 2022 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases analyzed samples from patients infected with the Omicron variant between November 29 and December 18, 2021. (Omicron subvariants are currently circulating in the United States). The results showed that patients shed the most virus between the second and fifth days after diagnosis. However, the researchers also noted that people with mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 were still spreading the infectious virus six to nine days after they developed symptoms or were diagnosed, even when symptoms had stopped.

"There are rare people who continue to spread the virus for a longer period, for a month, for example," Schaffner said. "But ten days is a good rule of thumb for all practical purposes."

How long do Covid-19 antibodies last?

Data published in The Lancet in February 2023 provide insight into how long coronavirus antibodies, proteins made by the immune system in response to infection or vaccination, last. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 65 studies from 19 countries and compared the risk of getting COVID-19 again in people who had recently had the virus to those who had not. Researchers learned that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death from a new infection by nearly 89% for ten months, thanks in part to protective antibodies left behind by the infection.

The duration of the presence of antibodies has become stronger throughout the epidemic. People previously infected with a variant other than Omicron were only 74% likely to be protected from getting infected again a month later. This number decreased to 36% ten months after the initial infection.

In the case of antibodies resulting from vaccination, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most people get at least six months of protection after getting the shot.

"Measurable antibody levels decrease over time," Russo stated. "The most lasting protection is in people who have antibodies from vaccination and infection."

Factors such as age and individual immunity can also affect how long antibodies last in any given person, Schaffner said.

"The elderly, the frail, and those who are immunocompromised will have more diminished antibodies than young people who are fit," he said. "But this is not a black-and-white phenomenon."

Doctors say that most people with COVID-19 will not infect others until ten days after they are diagnosed or after symptoms start. Many people are also protected from reinfection with COVID-19 for six months. However, factors such as your immune system, age, health condition, and the variant you have been infected with can all play a role.

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