Researchers have revealed that half the 16 patients (average age of 35.5 years) receiving treatment for mild COVID-19 infection had coronavirus for as long as 8 days after their symptoms had disappeared. Throat swab samples were collected and analyzed which had been taken from the patients on alternate days. They were discharged after recovering from the coronavirus and negative viral status had been confirmed by at least 2 consecutive PCR tests.
The patients’ primary symptoms included fever, cough, pharyngalgia (pharynx pain) and dyspnea (difficulty breathing). A range of medications were used for treating the patients. The incubation period, being the time from infection to symptom onset, was 5 days in all except one of the patients. Symptom duration was on average 8 days, while the length of time they remained contagious after symptoms had ended, ranged from 1 – 8 days. One of the patients had tuberculosis and two had diabetes, neither of which had an effect on the timing of the course of COVID-19 infection.
The researchers recommend extending quarantine time for an additional 2 weeks to avoid infecting other people if you have been recovering from COVID-19 mild respiratory symptoms at home. Patients with COVID-19 can be infectious after symptomatic recovery, so patients who have recently recovered or are asymptomatic should be treated as cautiously as patients who are symptomatic.
The most significant discovery from the study is that half of the mildly infected patients kept shedding the virus even after their symptoms had disappeared. All of the patients had milder infections and more severe infections could have even longer shedding times. It is unclear if the results would be the same for patients who are more vulnerable like the elderly, or patients with compromised immune systems or those on immunosuppressive therapies.