By the time you’re sneezing and your bones ache, the moment has passed. If you have COVID-19, you’re still able to infect others, but according to the WHO, you do your worst infecting damage just as you start to feel unwell. And that’s a problem.
Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist and technical lead on the pandemic, told a live session on social media:
“It appears from very limited information we have right now that people have more virus in their body at or around the time that they develop symptoms, so very early on.”
Early studies show that people with mild symptoms can be infectious for up to 8-9 days, giving them plenty of time to spread the disease even if they don’t think they’re all that sick.
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said that the novel coronavirus lodges in the upper respiratory tract, making it easier to transmit by droplets than related viruses such as SARS or MERS, which are in the lower tract.
“Now as we look at COVID-19, we have an infectious pathogen that is present in the upper airway for which the viral loads are peaking at the time you are just beginning to get sick. That means you could be in the restaurant feeling perfectly well and start to get a fever, you are feeling ok, you didn’t think to stay home, but that’s the moment at which your viral load could be actually quite high.”
And that’s what makes the disease so hard to contain. People feel alright, or at least, alright enough, and then go out and spread it to others.
The moral of the story? The minute you begin to feel a bit off your game, bow out of social engagements until you figure out if you’ve got Covid-19, or your just tired. Think of it as a great excuse to leave a party you don’t like or not visit with family.