VERIFY: Can you test positive for COVID-19 long after you’re contagious?

VERIFY: Can you test positive for COVID-19 long after you’re contagious?

Individuals have been claiming on social media that they have been getting positive COVID-19 test results for weeks after initially being ill. Here’s what experts have to say about it.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) —. — Vaccinations are becoming greater widespread, and there are more efforts to return to normalcy. COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will continue to be vital, according to health officials.

Is it possible, though, that a test could deceive you regarding a person’s infectiousness?

THE QUESTION

Is it possible to test positive for COVID-19 after being infected for a long time?

THE ANSWER

Yes. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testing can detect the virus weeks after a person becomes ill

Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist at Novant Health, offers his thoughts on how this could occur.

PCR testing is extremely sensitive, according to Priest.

This sensitivity can lead to erroneous conclusions about a person’s infectiousness.

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— Sphiwe Hobasi (@MrCow_man) February 16, 2021

&;People are no longer contagious after about 10 days,&; Priest added. "Virus mRNA can stay in your nasopharynx for weeks at a time, even if you aren’t contagious."

The CDC’s research takes into account the agency’s quarantine policies. According to the CDC, someone with a mild or moderate case of COVID-19 ceases being infectious within 10 days of onset of symptoms. For someone who has a more serious case, the time limit is 20 days.

Those who recover and lose their contagiousness, however, may continue shed the virus up to three months after being ill, according to the CDC.

It’s one of the reasons why the CDC advises employers to use a "symptom-based rather than test-based strategy for ending isolation," with the goal of avoiding excluding people from work and other responsibilities unnecessarily.

‘Our message to our clinicians is to stop repeating tests.’. There are few clinical instances when this is necessary, but for the most part, if you get a positive test, don’t repeat it,’ Priest said.