When you have covid, here’s how you know you are no longer contagious

(Paul Hanna/Bloomberg)

Update: This article was updated Aug. 11 with revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

You’ve got covid-19. When can you exit isolation? If you do resume activities outside your home, can you be sure you’re no longer contagious?

It’s complicated. Be forewarned: Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are nuanced but a little confusing.

On Aug. 11, those guidelines were reissued by the CDC, and there are some new wrinkles — as we’ll explain below — but one thing did not change: You do not need a negative coronavirus test to exit isolation. This has been a contentious issue. Several infectious-disease experts said they believe patients with covid should have a negative antigen test — which gives results within minutes — before exiting isolation. The CDC continues to leave that as an option and does not explicitly recommend it.

The important thing to consider, experts say, is that every person and every case of covid is unique. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how sick a person will get or how long a person remains infectious. The guidelines offer a general framework, but patients should take into account their circumstances, priorities and resources to assess risk.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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