It’s not clear yet, but some early data suggests that people may be contagious sooner than earlier forms.
When can I become contagious if infected with Omicron?
It’s not clear yet, but some early data suggests that people may be contagious sooner than earlier forms – possibly within a day of infection.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with coronavirus are most contagious in the days before and after developing symptoms. But that window of time may be the first with Omicron, according to some outside experts.
This is because according to preliminary studies, about three days after infection, Omicron causes symptoms faster than previous forms. Based on previous data, this means that people with Omicron can begin to be contagious as soon as a day after infection.
As with the previous forms, people became contagious two to four days after infection. And people remain contagious for days after symptoms subside.
Researchers say it is too early to know whether the shorter incubation period for Omicron translates into earlier infectivity. But it would help explain the rapid spread of the variant.
Dr. Amy Karger of the University of Minnesota Medical School recommends that people test themselves three days and five days after exposure, if possible.
“Many people are turning positive by the third day,” Kargar says, referring to O’Micron. “Basically here’s an opportunity for people to capture what you would do with the other variants.”
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If you only have one test, it’s fine to wait five days, Karger says.
People who have symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested immediately, if possible.
Lab-developed tests are more sensitive than rapid tests, so they should be able to pick up the virus for up to three days after exposure, if not earlier.
People who do not develop symptoms generally have very low viral levels, so it is much less clear when they become infectious or not.
Still, people who test positive but don’t have symptoms must isolate for at least five days under the latest CDC guidelines. The agency came under criticism for not requiring a negative test before leaving isolation, but even after the change in guidelines, officials said the move should be optional.
People with symptoms should be isolated until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours.