Patients who tested positive for the coronavirus could still have the infection once symptoms disappear, according to a new study.
A new study published online by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that half of the patients treated in the study for mild COVID-19 infections still had coronavirus for up to eight days after symptoms disappeared.
The small study, which observed 16 patients with COVID-19, happened from when patients were treated and released from the Treatment Center of PLA General Hospital in Beijing between Jan. 27 and Feb. 9.
Researchers said the primary symptoms in patients included fever, cough, pharynx pain and difficulty breathing. Patients were treated with a range of medications and the average duration of symptoms was eight days.
“The most significant finding from our study is that half of the patients kept shedding the virus even after resolution of their symptoms,” said co-author Dr. Lokesh Sharma from the Yale School of Medicine in a statement. “More severe infections may have even longer shedding times.”
The main takeaway from researchers is that COVID-19 patients “can be infectious even after their symptomatic recovery, so treat the asymptomatic/recently recovered patients as carefully as symptomatic patients.”
Researchers said further studies are needed since the patient size was limited. They also noted it’s unclear whether similar findings would hold true with elderly people and those with suppressed immune systems.
They also recommended extending quarantine time even after symptoms dissipate.
“If you had mild respiratory symptoms from COVID-19 and were staying at home so as not to infect people, extend your quarantine for another two weeks after recovery to ensure that you don’t infect other people,” said Lixin Xie from the Chinese PLA General Hospital.