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Coronavirus: Disease Control

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 38404, tabled on 21 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how long on average people with covid-19 remain infected.

Answered on

7 May 2020

In the case of COVID-19, infection is most commonly detected by utilising a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR); a test that detects viral genetic material (in this case, ribonucleic acid; RNA). The detection of viral RNA alone does not necessarily indicate an active virus infection. On average, detection of RNA in the respiratory tract, from serial measurements on the first 16 cases in the United Kingdom showed that RNA was detectable was 11.6 days after onset of illness; this is in keeping with the findings in other countries.

Virus can be cultured from upper respiratory tract samples for about one week after the onset of symptoms. The RNA can be detected in faeces up to three or four weeks after the onset of symptoms.