What to do if you continue to test positive for Covid, even after your symptoms disappear

Even after the fever dropped, the runny nose dried up, the five-day official quarantine period ended, and the 10-day precautionary phase ended, some people are always positive test for Covid – despite feeling totally fine.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may not know what to do, especially since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers little specific guidance on this. It’s hard to know exactly how many people it affects – most people test themselves at home, so their results aren’t tracked – but a 2020 pre-vaccination study of Florida schoolchildren found that 8 .2% of high school students were still positive 9-14 days after their first positive tests.

Even small percentages can affect millions of people, as the total number of cases in the country continues to rise: the United States has exceeded 85.7 million total Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, likely an undercount due to those at home testing.

Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon and what to do if it happens to you:

What to do if you continue to test positive after 10 days

Testing positive for Covid does not necessarily mean you are contagious. Rapid tests detect some protein bits of the virus, but these proteins alone do not cause infection. The same goes for PCR tests, which identify the genetic material of the virus in your system.

So, to determine if positive tests mean people are infectious, scientists grow samples of those tests in Petri dishes to see if more virus can grow, indicating it’s still alive and contagious. A recent study from Boston University, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, used this technique and found that only 17% of people were likely still infectious six days after their first positive test.

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to know which category you are in. But most experts say that as long as your symptoms are gone, you probably don’t need to self-isolate anymore.

The CDC recommends self-isolating for five days after the first positive test and ending your quarantine as long as you haven’t had a fever for 24 hours and your symptoms improve. The agency’s advice adds that you should continue to wear a mask until day 10 – essentially a precaution in case you are still contagious.

Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, says she would “feel really comfortable” with someone without symptoms emerging after five days of self-isolation, even if they are still tested positive for Covid.

“Follow CDC advice and wear a mask for the next five days,” she says.

Dr Wilbur Lam, a professor of pediatrics and biomedical engineering who led Emory University’s initiative to test Covid-19 diagnostics for the US government, specifically recommends avoiding contact with people who may have a weakened immune system, or to wear a mask if you cannot avoid the risk.

“Scientists, including our own center, are really trying to understand what are the variables that may affect why one consistently comes out positive on rapid tests, and what the implications are from both a biological and public health perspective.” , he said.

What testing positive for more than 10 days could mean for your long-term health

Last month, the CDC issued an alarming warning that up to one in five adult COVID-19 survivors can develop long Covid, potentially including long-term symptoms ranging from fatigue and brain fog to circulation and digestion problems. Women, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions all seem to be at higher risk.

Covid is not the only pathogen that can cause such problems: Dr. Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University, Shreveport, notes that other viruses, such as human papillomaviruses, can also wreak havoc on the body weeks or even years after the onset of infection.

More than 10 days of testing positive is not a known risk factor for long Covid, but it raises questions about where the virus might linger. Some viruses are known to hide in tissues that don’t produce symptoms – like fat cells or the gut, for example – before reappearing once it thinks the pathway is clear.

By the way, that’s a theory as to why some people test positive for Covid beyond 10 days – but for now, that’s just a theory. Experts point out that if you continue to test positive after your week-and-a-half stay is over, you probably don’t have to worry: precautions are important to take, but you’re unlikely to get hurt. hurt or hurt those around you. by ending your isolation.

This will remain true unless further research proves otherwise.

“I would just say we don’t know enough to worry about,” Lam says. “There are so many things you need to worry about in your life, this doesn’t have to be one of them.”

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