Can asymptomatic carriers test positive for COVID-19? Do they ever stop spreading the virus?

Do asymptomatic people keep spreading coronavirus forever?

DETROIT – People who have minimal or no coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms can spread the illness.

Many people have wondered if those asymptomatic carriers would test positive for the virus. And if they can pass it to other people despite not showing symptoms, do they ever stop spreading it?

If an asymptomatic person is shedding the virus, which means they could be infecting others, they would test positive for COVID-19.

The second question doesn’t have a clear answer yet.

They will eventually stop spreading the virus, but when that happens or if asymptomatic people can recover and become immune is not known. Comprehensive surveillance of asymptomatic people has not been done, and there are no reliable antibody tests identified currently that would show that a person is now immune.

People have also asked if it is possible to be infected with another virus when you have COVID-19.

Yes, and a recent study has shown that 20 percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 also had another virus. The most common viruses were rhinovirus, enterovirus, RSV and non-SARS-COV-2 coronaviruses, which are all frequent sources of a cold.

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

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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.