The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday evening said it has updated its guidance on coronavirus-related isolation, which reflects the latest science showing that people can continue to test positive for COVID-19 for up to three months after diagnosis while being non-infectious. But, the CDC also warned, that does not mean those patients are safe from possible reinfection.
“This science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection,” the CDC said in a statement. “The latest data simply suggests that retesting someone in the 3 months following initial infection is not necessary unless that person is exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms cannot be associated with another illness.”
Although there have been reports of people testing positive again for COVID-19, experts have said it could be due to drawn out illnesses and leftover viral shedding or errors with testing.
Those infected with COVID-19 should isolate for at least 10 days after symptoms develop and 24 hours after their fever subsides on its own without use of medications. For those with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic, the CDC recommends self-quarantining until 10 days have passed since the date of a positive test result and if a person continues to have no symptoms.
Healthcare providers might suggest individuals take repeat COVID-19 tests if they want to end isolation earlier than what’s outlined in the federal guidelines. People previously diagnosed with COVID-19 can stop isolating if they receive two negative test results in a row from tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
More than 15 recently published global and U.S.-based studies have looked at length of infection, duration of viral shed, asymptomatic spread and the risk of transmission among different patient groups, according to the CDC. The amount of live virus in the nose and throat drops significantly shortly after COVID-19 symptoms develop, researchers found. Also, evidence shows that the length of time a person is infectious is no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin and no longer than 20 days in people with serious illness or who are severely immunocompromised.
The CDC said it will continue to closely monitor incoming research data and make necessary changes to isolation guidelines if needed.