Asymptomatic COVID-19 Carriers: Are They Contagious?


As experts perpetually roll out new research information, our collective experience with COVID-19 continues to evolve. One of the many questions remains: Are asymptomatic carriers contagious?


A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports evidence that asymptomatic people -those who have the virus without displaying symptoms- and presymptomatic subjects -those who are infected, but experience an initial period without symptoms- can transmit COVID-19. Additionally, recently reported a South Korean study published by JAMA Internal Medicine confirms coronavirus carriers sans symptoms are capable of spreading the virus.

A CDC report from early last month cites a survey revealing more than 50 percent of the coronavirus patients questioned could not pinpoint how they got it. The report says this uncertainty “underscores the need for isolation of infected persons, contact tracing and testing during ongoing community transmission, and prevention measures including social distancing and use of cloth face coverings.”

While this and other like minded research point toward a clear answer, those exposed to someone who tests positive often wonder what to do next.

"Wear a face mask, social distance –especially from those who are high risk– and if you are called by a CDC professional through contact tracing get tested and/or stay home."

According to the CDC, those who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should quarantine at home for 14 days. The last day of quarantine is 14 days from the date you had close contact. Be sure and get tested. However, the CDC states, “even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.”

Dr. Rebecca Sellers, a SouthCoast Health family medicine physician, agrees. “The articles and information discussed are evidenced-based approaches to prevent the spread of COVID 19,” she explains. “I know many, if not all of us, throughout the last several months have experienced what I call COVID fatigue as the virus controls our activities, work environments, social gatherings, and conversations. The way we persevere is through protecting one another. Wear a face mask, social distance –especially from those who are high risk– and if you are called by a CDC professional through contact tracing get tested and/or stay home.”

Dr. Rebecca Sellers is a family phyisican with SouthCoast Health in Richmond Hill, Georgia. Learn more about Dr. Sellers at SouthCoast Health.


# Nathan W. Furukawa Comments to Author, John T. Brooks, and Jeremy Sobel
Author affiliations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Asymptomatic people with Covid. Are they contagious? If you are exposed to someone who tested positive, what are the next steps?

Second, transmission while asymptomatic reinforces the value of community interventions to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Knowing that asymptomatic transmission was a possibility, CDC recommended key interventions including physical distancing (36), use of cloth face coverings in public (37), and universal masking in healthcare facilities (38) to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission by asymptomatic and symptomatic persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Third, asymptomatic transmission enhances the need to scale up the capacity for widespread testing and thorough contact tracing to detect asymptomatic infections, interrupt undetected transmission chains, and further bend the curve downward.