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Omicron variant patients contagious for six days, new study says

How long will you have COVID-19 symptoms?

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An illustration for the omicron variant.

How long will you have COVID-19 symptoms?

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Patients infected with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus are contagious for at least six days, according to a new study.

Details: A recent small study reviewed blood samples from 56 patients, including 37 people who were infected with the COVID-19 delta variant and 19 who were infected with omicron, per Reuters.

What they found: The patients — regardless of the variant — “shed live virus for, on average, about 6 days after symptoms (began), and... about one in four people shed live virus for over 8 days,” said Dr. Amy Barczak, co-author of the study who works at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, per Reuters.

What she said: “Although it is unknown exactly how much live virus is needed to spread the disease to others, we take these data to suggest that people with mild COVID-19 infection may be contagious on average for 6 days, and sometimes longer,” Barczak said, per Reuters.

  • “Decisions about isolation and masking should take such information into account, regardless of variant or prior vaccination status.”


Flashback: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in late December that people who had omicron variant symptoms were contagious with the virus, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • Walensky said that “in the one to two days prior to the onset of symptoms and then in the two to three days after the prior onset of symptoms is really when the vast majority of transmission occurs. So in that five-day window is really where most of that transmission is happening.”