Coronavirus is so easily spread, that social distancing and Britain’s lockdown is in force to try to curb the potentially deadly disease. When is it most contagious?
New research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine, suggests when people are most infectious.
Building upon prior evidence, the study concludes that people are most infectious before they show symptoms.
This is a cause for concern – many people, who think they are well, could be passing on the virus while out and about, or shopping.
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“We observed the highest viral load in throat swabs at the time of symptom onset, and inferred that infectiousness peaked on or before symptom onset,” said the scientists.
The findings revealed that viral shedding – when people are able to infect others – could begin up to three days before symptoms appear.
Given that people can still shop for basic necessities, visit the pharmacy and do daily exercise for three days before they even know they’re ill can be troubling.
The research added that as soon as people displayed symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, the amount of virus given off had declined.
The NHS outlines that one symptom of a COVID-19 infection includes a new, continuous cough.
It explains: “This means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
“If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual.”
Another symptom of COVID-19 pointed out by the NHS is a high temperature – “this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back”.
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a list of other COVID-19 symptoms. These are:
- Shortness of breath
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
- A runny nose
Back to the research, the study did have limitations. For instance, it relied on patients’ memories of when symptoms first began.
This could be unreliable, as people’s memories are a bit fuzzy at the best of times.
However, the findings are consistent with other studies, which suggest asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) people are contributing to the spread of the virus.
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As a precautionary measure, the White House in America had advised healthy people to wear face masks while outside to reduce the risk of infecting others.
Will the UK soon follow suit? At present, some people are donning the new accessory during their food shop, and others aren’t.
Face masks do not prevent people from catching an infection, but do help to protect others.
This is a good tool to use, especially if the virus is most contagious before anybody even realises they are ill.
The Department of Health has advised that the peak could be between late May and late June.
With the government enacting daily press briefings about the virus, there’s not a set date as to when the lockdown will begin to ease up.
Social distancing rules apply to everyone in the UK, which means not mixing with anybody outside of your household.
It’s adherence to these instructions that may help to get us back to normal more quickly.
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