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How Long After Exposure Do You Get Coronavirus?

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Ken Cosby M.D.

Ken Cosby M.D.

Dr. Ken Cosby received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, DC) and completed his research post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health including the National Heart Lung Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

March 1, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

How Long After Exposure Do You Get Coronavirus?

Are you worried that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus recently? How long after exposure do you get coronavirus? How contagious is it? What are the symptoms?

Here’s the latest information about the novel coronavirus and how an online doctor may be able to help. 

How Long Does it Take for COVID-19 Symptoms to Appear?

What you’re really asking is: What is the incubation period of the coronavirus disease?

The incubation period is the length of time between when you become infected with COVID-19 and when you start to have symptoms.

The incubation period for COVID-19 seems to be anywhere from three to fourteen days. However, most people will start to experience symptoms within four or five days of exposure. 

It’s important to note that emerging research shows that people might be most likely to spread the virus to others during the 48 hour time period before they begin having symptoms.

If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, you should take precautions not to infect others, even if you aren’t showing symptoms yet. 

This is the main  reason why staying 6 feet away from others and wearing a mask is so important – these steps will help prevent transmission of the virus from people who are already contagious but aren’t showing symptoms yet. 

Read: How to Stay Sane in Quarantine

How Contagious Is the Coronavirus Disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The virus appears to spread easily” through close contact with other people via respiratory droplets that are released anytime a person sneezes, coughs, or talks.

Those droplets may land on you or a surface that you touch before touching your eyes, mouth, nose or face.

Read: How Long Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

A number called an Ro (pronounced R naught) indicates how many people the virus typically spreads to from one infected individual.

The Ro will vary depending on your location and potential number of exposed individuals. In dense cities the Ro is likely to be higher than in rural areas because people are more likely to come into contact with more individuals. 

Studies have put the COVID-19 Ro as high as 6.6 and as low as 2.

For context, the seasonal flu Ro tends to be around 1.3 and the measles (before vaccines) could have an Ro as high as 18.

This graphic demonstrates how a COVID-19 Ro of two works. Showing the spread of the coronavirus from person to two people, and so on. This graphic demonstrates how an Ro of 2 spreads from one person to two people and so on. Graphic source: University of Michigan

Related: Coronavirus Risk Quiz

Can Someone Who Has Had COVID-19 Spread the Illness to Others?

Assuming the virus has left your system, no you are no longer contagious.

Harvard Health studies have found that you are most contagious in the early stages of the disease, but you probably remain contagious for at least 10 days after your start to experience symptoms.

The only way to be sure you’re no longer spreading COVID-19 is to have two negative tests 24 hours apart. 

Once you are negative for COVID-19 you are no longer contagious.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Which Are the First Symptoms of the Coronavirus Disease?

Anyone can experience mild, moderate, or severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease, and the symptoms may hit all at once rather than gradually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • New loss of smell or taste

Read: Caring For Someone With Coronavirus

How Is the Coronavirus Transmitted?

The coronavirus is thought to spread primarily through respiratory droplets released when somebody talks, coughs, or sneezes.

These droplets may spread the disease directly from person to person, or the droplets may land on a surface and then are picked up from there. 

Since the coronavirus seems to be primarily transmitted by people who aren’t experiencing symptoms yet, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing are the best steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

What To Do if You Think You Have COVID-19

If you’re experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people until you’ve gone at least 10 days without symptoms.

While certain medications are showing promise, there is no official treatment yet for COVID-19, so there’s no point in rushing to a doctor for medication. 

Read: What is Remdesivir?

Seek emergency medical care if you experience severe symptoms of the coronavirus, such as:

  • Persistent pressure or pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish face or lips
  • Inability to stay awake
  • New confusion

Before going to the hospital, call ahead and alert them that you may have COVID-19, so they can be prepared with proper protection and procedures.

You may need to enter through a separate entrance, for example, to limit the exposure risk to others. 

Related: COVID-19 Mental Health Center

How Long Does it Take to Develop Antibodies After a Coronavirus Infection?

Antibodies are produced as a result of your body’s immune response to an infection. While we do not know yet if antibodies provide immunity for COVID-19, we do know that many people have antibodies in their system after recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

Studies show antibodies take 1-3 weeks to appear following an infection.

This is why it’s important to wait long enough after your infection before receiving antibody testing to avoid a false result.

At this time PlushCare is offering free appointments for insured in-network patients looking to receive antibody testing orders.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


How an Online Doctor Can Help

An online doctor can help you determine whether you should get tested for the coronavirus. Testing is still limited in some areas, so you may need to meet strict guidelines in order to qualify for a test. 

A PlushCare doctor can give you a test order if they deem testing beneficial to you and you meet the local guidelines for testing.

They can also give you advice on how to manage the physical symptoms or mental health concerns you may have thanks to COVID-19. 

Read: Managing Coronavirus Anxiety

Getting started with PlushCare is simple. Just click here or call (888)798-0620 any time of day to schedule an appointment for a phone or video consultation with a licensed doctor.

You will discuss your symptoms and concerns with the doctor, and they can order a COVID-19 test.

Read More About The Coronavirus


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Harvard Health Publishing. If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. Accessed on May 20, 2020 at

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Symptoms of Coronavirus. Accessed on May 20, 2020 at

Mayo Clinic. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Accessed on May 20, 2020 at,%2C%20sneezes%20or%20talks.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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