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Pre-Symptomatic vs. Asymptomatic: The Difference Explained

Pre-Symptomatic vs. Asymptomatic: The Difference Explained

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, we understand its main form of spreading is through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking. However, a rising concern is the spread from those without visible symptoms, otherwise known as pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers. But, what is the difference?

Pre-symptomatic COVID-19 Carriers

A person who is pre-symptomatic has tested positive for infection but isn’t displaying any signs or symptoms yet. Experts warn that pre-symptomatic COVID-19 carriers are the most contagious, as the virus can spread at least 48 hours before symptoms develop, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention usually appear two to 14 days after exposure. Without knowledge, a person in this stage can infect others while still feeling healthy.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 Carriers

If a person is asymptomatic, he or she also has the infection without symptoms but, unlike pre-symptomatic carriers, won’t develop them later. This doesn’t mean a person who is asymptomatic is in the clear, as studies now show the virus can cause mild harm to the lungs when in this stage. Experts say it is also unknown at this time if asymptomatic carriers will remain symptom-free the entire time of infection.

How can you Protect Yourself and Others?

Whether you are pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic or symptomatic, the best form of protection is to follow the CDC’s guidelines on physical distancing measures.

-Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands. 

-Avoid close contact and remain at least six feet from others.

-Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol).

-Wear face coverings that protect your nose and mouth when in public areas.

-Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or with the inside of your elbow.

-Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often every day.

-Be aware of your health by checking for symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

For more information on how you can protect yourself and others, visit

As information on COVID-19 evolves, guidance sourced from the CDC and other resources contained in this blog may be subject to change. This material is intended for general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your medical provider for personal care recommendations.