COVID-19, the novel coronavirus began in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019 and has turned the world upside down. Not only has this microscopic virus caused a pandemic, it continues to create confusion and fear in countries around the world.

Because COVID-19 has never been seen before in humans, little is known about it. People have many questions that include concerns over the illness itself, the spread of the virus, immunity, and vaccines. As millions of people are affected by the coronavirus, many are wondering how long the incubation period is for coronavirus. In other words, “How much time does it take for symptoms to appear after a person has been infected with the coronavirus?” This question may seem simple, but it is especially important. The answer will help officials fine-tune mitigation and quarantine measures so communities can remain safe while returning to a semi-normal life.

What is the incubation period for COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) in the United States, from what researchers have observed so far, the incubation period for COVID-19 ranges between 2 and 14 days. They believe that in most cases, incubation occurs in five days, but it has been shown to take up to 27 days in some cases.

The CDC has not yet been able to determine when viral shedding begins and how long it lasts. Viral shedding occurs when there is a sufficient amount of the virus in the host so they can release virus to other parts of their body or into the atmosphere. In other words, they become infectious to others.

The CDC does believe that viral shedding begins before a patient is symptomatic. This is what causes such a high rise in cases in areas where people come into close contact with each other. Viral shedding occurs without the warnings of illness and the virus has the ability to spread quickly.

The amount of time an infected person continues to be contagious to others is still not certain. Some studies report that people seem to be the most contagious during the initial week of symptomatic illness. These studies also show that when samples of sputum were taken from infected people, there were still particles of virus for 10 to 11 days after the first signs of illness.

How do you know when you are sick with COVID-19?

Because the incubation period is anywhere between 2 and 14 days for most cases, many people have a false sense of security, but they may become infected and have no signs of illness for up to three weeks, or even longer in some cases.

It is for this reason that medical professionals and government officials suggest taking self-quarantine measures for at least two weeks if you suspect you have been in contact with the virus. Here are the most common symptoms that signal a possible COVID-19 infection:

• Fever
• Fatigue or sleepiness that is unusual
• Dry cough
• Achiness or body pains
• Congestion or runny nose
• Sore throat
• Diarrhea

If you suspect that you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should call your primary care physician to get advice and information about what steps you should take for yourself and your family. It is important that you do not wait for signs of illness before you take action in protecting people around you because you may be contagious before you get sick.


For more detailed information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, or to for coverage information.

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