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    How long after I get COVID

    Testing positive for COVID-19 even without symptoms can be disruptive to life, but how long should we expect to test positive for?

    The science behind COVID-19


    How long after I get COVID-19 will I test negative?

    Testing positive for COVID-19 even without symptoms can be disruptive to life, but how long should we expect to test positive for?

    29 October 2021

    3 min read


    Priya Joi

    Close-up of young man getting PCR test at doctor's office.


    This is a question that millions of us have asked ourselves, and with good reason. Testing positive for COVID-19, even if we have been vaccinated or don’t have any symptoms, is incredibly disruptive to our lives.

    Unfortunately, many people can test positive for COVID-19 for weeks or even months, but there is good news: people are not likely to be contagious for that long, even if they test positive, and therefore are unlikely to transmit the virus to others.

    It means we have to limit contact with members of our household, isolate for several days, thus withdrawing again from daily activities, and disrupt travel plans. After nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, life being thrown into constant chaos can feel exhausting.

    Positive does not equal contagious

    The time taken to test negative after contracting COVID-19 depends on the severity of the case, and also on the test itself. PCR tests that hunt out parts of viral genetic material (RNA in the case of COVID-19) in our bodies and amplify it so we can detect it are extremely sensitive and can even pick up the presence of few viral fragments. This is because fragments of viral RNA can remain in our bodies long after the infection is over and the virus has been cleared from our system.

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    Lateral flow tests that look for viral proteins called antigens are less sensitive and may be less likely to give a positive result several days after first infection. If we test positive on a PCR test but negative on an antigen test, then it's likely that we are not infectious and have just residual virus RNA.

    Unfortunately, many people can test positive for COVID-19 for weeks or even months, but there is good news: people are not likely to be contagious for that long, even if they test positive, and therefore are unlikely to transmit the virus to others. However, if we test positive on a PCR as well as on a protein-based antigen test, then we might still be infectious. This is because having viral proteins for a long time means that the virus is replicating and producing more of its core material.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that people isolate for ten days after their symptoms start (or from when they are diagnosed if they are asymptomatic) plus three days after symptoms cease. There are exceptions to this depending on whether people are still symptomatic, says WHO: if a person is symptomatic for say, 30 days they will need to isolate until they are asymptomatic.

    It’s important to note that WHO still recommends that vaccinated people who have COVID-19 symptoms or people living in contact with someone who has COVID-19 should still maintain caution regarding social interaction, despite some countries changing national guidance on this.

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    How Long Will You Test Positive for COVID

    If you've been infected with COVID-19, how long will you keep testing positive for the virus?


    How Long Will You Test Positive for COVID-19?

    By Valerie DeBenedette Published on January 26, 2022

    Fact checked by Nick Blackmer

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    Viesturs Radovics / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Key Takeaways

    If you get COVID-19, you may test positive for several weeks after your infection clears.

    The persistence of a positive result depends on which test was used, since the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is more sensitive than the rapid antigen tests that can be administered at home.

    If you’ve tested positive, you don’t need to test again. If you know you’ve been exposed and test negative, test again in a few days.

    You tested positive for COVID-19. You followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations by isolating yourself for five days and wearing a mask for another five days. But what now?

    At what point do you cease to be positive for the virus that causes COVID-19? It depends on several factors, experts say, and the most important part is which test you use.

    “A positive test can be short-lived or can persist for months,” Robert Amler, MD, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at the New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, told Verywell via email. “Different types of tests may or may not be persistently positive.”

    Should I Use a PCR or Rapid Test for COVID-19?

    There are two main types of tests COVID-19 that can be used to detect an active infection. Antigen tests, often called rapid tests, can rapidly look for the viral proteins called antigens and can be conducted at home. Molecular tests, like the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, look for pieces of the virus’s genetic material and are analyzed in a lab.

    Whether you use a PCR test or a rapid test, the results are either positive or negative. They do not measure how much virus you may have in your body or how infectious you may be.

    These tests, however, have different sensitivities.

    What Is Sensitivity?

    Sensitivity indicates how likely a test is to detect a condition when it is actually present in a patient. A test with high sensitivity is less likely to produce a false negative.1

    PCR tests are more sensitive, and are able to detect the presence of the virus earlier. But they can also detect the presence of COVID-19 well past the point of when it’s contagious.

    "We found that after [people] recovered from any symptoms, we could occasionally detect very low levels of RNA, which was the target of the [PCR] test, for up to 12 weeks,” Alan Wells, MD, DMSc, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical Laboratories, told Verywell.

    According to a CDC review of 113 studies, COVID-19 is only contagious ranging from two to three days before symptom onset to eight days after.2

    “That’s why the CDC recommends that people be exempted from any sort of PCR surveillance testing for 90 days after a positive test,” Gigi Gronvall, PhD, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Verywell. Gronvall works with the center’s COVID-19 Testing Toolkit. “I expect that that this guidance is probably going to change at some point with more information, but some people continue to test positive by PCR even after they’re clearly no longer infectious. For whatever reason, there is still viral genetic material hanging out in their nose.”

    Rapid tests are less sensitive, but a person will probably still test positive for six or seven days after they are no longer having symptoms, Gronvall said.

    If You Have COVID-19, Is It Really Safe to Only Isolate for Five Days?

    Positive? Don’t Test Again

    If you have gotten a positive result on a test, there is no point in testing any further.

    “Health departments say if you test positive, don’t keep testing repeatedly in search of a negative test,” Amler said. “Any positive test is a positive result, so you will just be wasting scarce test kits.”

    The only time to retest is if you test negative after you have been exposed to someone with the virus or if you have symptoms. It can take time for the virus to build up to levels that are detectable.

    “You want to test on day three and five or day four and day six after exposure, just to make sure you are negative,” Wells said.

    What This Means For You

    If you get COVID-19, you may test positive on a PCR test for several weeks after you have ceased to be infectious. With a rapid test, you may test positive for six or seven days after your symptoms have cleared.

    The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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    Source : www.verywellhealth.com

    How Long Can You Test Positive for COVID

    How long you test positive for COVID-19 after being infected could come down to what kind of test you're using, according to experts.



    How Long Can You Test Positive for COVID-19?

    How Long Can You Test Positive for COVID-19? Experts say the test you're using might have an impact.

    By Lela Moore Published on March 16, 2022

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    For most people, a positive COVID-19 test will happen early on in their infection—it'll tip them off when to begin their isolation period, and, depending on symptoms, when they can enter back into the world. But for some people, a positive COVID-19 test may linger for weeks (or months) even after recovery—and the guidance for what to do with longstanding positive results is less clear.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently provides guidance on what to do in the 10 days following a positive COVID-19 test: Those who didn't develop symptoms can end isolation five days after a positive test; people who did develop symptoms can also end isolation after five days as long as symptoms are improving and they've been fever-free for 24 hours. Once out of isolation, people should continue to mask until day 10.

    But according to the CDC, people can continue to test positive for COVID-19 for up to three months after their initial infection—so how does that play into the isolation recommendations? And does a lingering positive test mean you're still contagious? Here's what you need to know.

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    How Long Do People Usually Test Positive for COVID-19?

    For the most part, people will test positive for COVID-19 on an antigen or rapid test for up to about 10 days, Matt Binnicker, PhD, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic, told Health. But when using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, people can test positive for even longer—up to two months, said Binnicker.

    The CDC backs this up: In August 2020, the agency updated its isolation guidance to clarify that people can continue to test positive for COVID-19 up to three months after their initial diagnosis, but aren't infectious to others in that time period.

    The discrepancies between tests and the lengths of their positive results boils down to what each test looks for, and its sensitivity. PCR tests, for example, are designed to pick up viral RNA, or the virus' genetic material, David Dowdy, MD, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Health. "Even if the virus is dead, the RNA can still be hanging around, so you can get a false positive [PCR test result] up to two months or so after the infection," Dr. Dowdy said. "It's not super super common, but it certainly does happen."

    Meanwhile, antigen tests—more often known as rapid or at-home tests—detect antigens, or specific proteins from the virus. The CDC says antigen tests are generally less sensitive than PCR tests, and both tests work best in symptomatic people.

    According to the CDC, most people who continue to test positive for COVID-19 even after they've recovered from the virus don't necessarily have to worry about passing the virus to others—but people who have a weakened immune system or suffered a particularly severe bout of COVID-19 and continue to test positive might.

    "In some people…especially those with a compromised immune system, they may continue to be contagious for a longer period of time, especially if they continue to have symptoms," said Binnicker. That's because, according to Dr. Dowdy, their "immune system is not getting rid of the virus" as effectively as it should—which would also result in testing positive for COVID-19 for a longer period of time than usual.

    The CDC recognizes this, too: The agency recommends extending the COVID-19 isolation period to up to 20 days for people who are severely immunocompromised or who were severely ill with COVID-19. A viral test may also be recommended for those people to determine if they're able to be around others without the risk of spreading the virus.

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    What Should You Do if You Continue to Test Positive After You've Recovered?

    If you test positive once for COVID-19, "in general, I would recommend not testing again," said Dr. Dowdy. There's an exception to that recommendation, according to the CDC, which says that if a person has access to an at-home test at the end of their five-day isolation period they can take it. If the test is positive, they should continue to isolate another five days. People who are immunocompromised or had severe COVID-19 may also test at the end of their isolation period.

    According to Dr. Dowdy, if you were sick with COVID-19, then recovered, then begin having symptoms again, that would be the time for another rapid test. "But you just always have to be aware of the possibility of a false positive."

    Antigen tests are the way to go if you do have to test again for COVID-19 within three months of a previous COVID-19 test. "Because of the chance of persistent positive results by a molecular test, infected individuals should not use a [PCR] to determine if they are no longer infectious," Binnicker said. The CDC also does not recommend retesting—presumably with a PCR test—within three months of a previous positive test.

    Source : www.health.com

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