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Published on June 15, 2020

asymptomatic vs pre-symptomatic

The asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of COVID-19

Megan Meller

By Megan Meller Infection Control, Infection Preventionist

COVID-19 info

There has been a lot of news coverage about COVID-19 and asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread.

  • Someone who is asymptomatic has the infection but no symptoms and will not develop them later.
  • Someone who is pre-symptomatic has the infection but don't have any symptoms yet.

Both groups can spread the infection.

COVID-19 spreads easily and we believe that's because it's spread by those who don't know they're infected. We suspect that individuals who are pre-symptomatic are infectious for two to three days before having symptoms.

How many COVID- 19 cases develop symptoms?

One of the questions I get most frequently is how many people develop symptoms and how many people remain asymptomatic. We believe that the number of asymptomatic infections ranges from 15 to 40 percent of total infections. COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms. Some have mild symptoms like a sore throat or a runny nose that can be confused for allergies or a cold. Others grow more ill and develop shortness of breath, pneumonia or require hospitalization. We don't know why some people never get sick, have only mild symptoms or require hospitalization.

It can be challenging to keep up with constantly changing information. We encourage you to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The recommendations are based on current science and updated regularly. For COVID-19 guidance at a local level, turn to state and local health departments.

How can you prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Some of the easiest and most effective ways that we can limit the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, practice physical distancing, wear a face-covering in public and wash hands often. It is impossible to know if you are COVID-free, asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic in the absence of a test. I encourage everyone to assume they have COVID-19 when in public and when interacting with others. By practicing these proven public health practices, we can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and protect everyone.

Feeling ill?

If you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, there are two options for screening and testing at Gundersen Health System:

  1. Screening and self-scheduling in MyChart (select locations)
  2. Screening and scheduling by phone

By phone or online, you will be asked screening questions to determine your next steps.

Learn more

Note: You must be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested at Gundersen Health System.

For questions about COVID-19, ask Ayla, our digital helper. You can find her in the lower right corner of our website.

what to expect

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