What’s asymptomatic transmission? Can I socialize after self-quarantine?

Dr. Frank McGeorge answers viewer question about coronavirus

What’s asymptomatic transmission? Can I socialize after self-quarantine?
What’s asymptomatic transmission? Can I socialize after self-quarantine?

DETROIT – There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there about the coronavirus (COVID-19), so Local 4 is letting viewers submit questions so we can find verified answers.

Click here if you want to submit a question about the coronavirus.

Dr. Frank McGeorge wants to verify or refute any information about the coronavirus, but there are also some questions experts still don’t know the answer to. McGeorge is discussing them because acknowledging what we don’t know is just as important as verifying information so people don’t rely on incorrect answers.

Do I need to worry about asymptomatic transmission?

The highest risk time for someone to spread the virus is when an infected person develops symptoms like a fever and cough, but one concern that’s emerging as a growing risk is something called asymptomatic transmission.

As the name implies, this occurs when a person has no symptoms. There’s ongoing debate over whether there is truly asymptomatic spread where someone has absolutely no symptoms at all.

It is more common that a person simply has very minimal symptoms, perhaps a runny nose or a scratchy throat that they simply dismiss. Regardless of whether the person is truly asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic, they have the potential to spread the virus. The biggest reason health experts are recommending everyone wear a mask is to minimize the risk of spreading the virus if you are unknowingly in this group.

How long is an asymptomatic person contagious?

One practical question that has come up is how long are you contagious if you are asymptomatic? Unfortunately, we have no idea.

Because our testing is currently focused on people with symptoms that more strongly suggest COVID-19,- there isn’t enough information to even know how common asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic spread is.

If I’ve self-quarantined, is it safe for me to visit someone afterward?

Many people have asked if it’s safe to visit someone who is at high risk after being self-quarantined for two weeks. While we don’t know for sure, but if you’ve self-quarantined for two weeks and have no symptoms, the odds are very much in your favor. Although, I would still recommend a mask and all the usual distancing and hygiene recommendations.

Regarding spread, there are other factor beyond asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic spread -- that’s presymptomatic spread. There is good published data that strongly suggests some people are able to spread the virus between one and three days before they develop symptoms and even know they are sick -- which is yet another reason everyone need to help keep each other safe.


About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.