No fever, no cough … 80% of people infected with coronavirus present a mild form of the disease or show no symptoms at all (asymptomatic form of the disease). How do you know if you are contagious? How long does the risk of contagion last? Can we be a healthy carrier of coronavirus?
” 80% of infected people report little or no symptoms , so Covid-19 (the coronavirus discovered in China in December 2019, editor’s note) is a virus that is asymptomatic or mild in the vast majority of French people, “said Olivier Véran, current Minister of Solidarity and Health on Monday March 10, 2020. A characteristic that complicates the detection of all cases, but above all the slowing of the epidemic.
Definition: what is it to be a healthy carrier of a virus or disease?
A healthy carrier is a person whose body is infected with an infectious agent (virus, bacteria, parasite) but who does not show clinical signs of this infection. This person is said to be asymptomatic , that is, to have no symptoms. However, a healthy carrier is still affected by the “disease” and can transmit the infectious agent to other people with whom it is in contact.
Why are some people healthy carriers?
Reminder of coronavirus symptoms
The first symptoms of the “new coronavirus” are not very specific : headache, muscle pain (muscle aches), severe fatigue. Fever and respiratory signs (cough, shortness of breath, shortness of breath …) occur later, often two or three days after the onset of the first symptoms. Among the new symptoms to watch for: loss of taste (ageusia) and loss of smell (anosmia) which are now considered to be warning signs of coronavirus infection.
A healthy carrier of a virus has no clinical manifestation of the infection:
either because the infectious agent (virus, bacteria, etc.) is not very virulent: the agent is too weak to cause reactions by the organism and therefore symptoms.
either because its immune defenses are very effective and prevent the onset of symptoms.
You can be a healthy carrier of different viruses and diseases: chickenpox, influenza, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, an STD such as chlamydia, HIV (AIDS) and herpes …
One can also be a healthy carrier of a gene as is the case for certain genetic and therefore non-contagious diseases ( cystic fibrosis for example). In this case, the genes are passed on from parents to their child. Each child inherits half of his genes from his father and the other half from his mother. In France, more than two million people are said to be carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene without knowing it: this is called “healthy carriers”. They are at risk of transmitting the disease gene to their child, without however developing the disease, specifies Orphanet , the information portal dedicated to rare diseases.
Are we contagious?
The healthy carrier does not show symptoms but remains contagious . It can therefore spread the disease to other people. ” In the case of Covid-19 , this is particularly true for children, adolescents and young adults “, specifies Frédéric Tangy, retired CNRS researcher, now assigned to the vaccine innovation laboratory of the Pasteur Institute in an article from South West. With or without symptoms, a person contaminated with Covid-19 can transmit the pathogen to 3 people on average , recalls the World Health Organization.
For how long ?
A healthy carrier would be less contagious compared to a person who has symptoms.
The incubation time of Covid-19 , the time from the time of infection to the onset of symptoms of disease, is 3 to 5 days in most patients. case, but can be up to 14 days. This means that an infected person can transmit the disease up to between 3 and 14 days before the onset of symptoms (the average is estimated at 1 week). But since an individual can be a “healthy carrier”, there is always a risk of contagion , even after the incubation period.
However, a healthy carrier would be less contagious compared to a person with symptoms since they do not cough and sneeze . ” We have asked ourselves a lot about whether we can be contagious by being asymptomatic. Which is ultimately quite unlikely. Because to be contagious, you still have to excrete droplets, that is to say, cough, sneeze. And so someone who has no symptoms, of course, could be a carrier – it is very likely and we find them from time to time in extremely symptomatic forms – but ultimately has few means to spread the virus, “says Jérôme Salomon, Director General of Health.
Anyone can be a “healthy carrier”.
What to do if you are a healthy carrier?
Anyone can be a “healthy carrier” and can therefore participate in the spread of the disease without even being aware of it. If in doubt, even if you don’t “feel sick”, each person must:
Refrain from any non-essential outing in a public place.
Do not participate in any grouping, whether of a professional, social or family nature.
Avoid contact with vulnerable people (pregnant women, the chronically ill, the elderly, etc.).
Do not go to places where there are fragile people (hospitals, maternity hospitals, accommodation facilities for the elderly, etc.).
Respect the basic “barrier” gestures: wash your hands regularly use an alcoholic solution, or use water and soap or sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue, use disposable tissues (and throw them in the trash after the first use). greet without shaking hands, without kissing and keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters with any interlocutor.
Wearing the mask would not be useful in the absence of symptoms, according to health authorities.
At stage 3 of the epidemic , the diagnostic test is reserved for people who are fragile or at risk, in case of signs of seriousness, if they are already hospitalized, if they are a healthcare professional, if they are at risk and in a collective structure (EPHAD, handicap). If you do not belong to any of these categories, you cannot perform a diagnostic test.