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COVID-19 cases are ‘most infectious’ in first 7 days after developing symptoms

22:46 | 24/03/2020

Health experts have “learnt quite a lot” about the coronavirus including when patients are the most infectious.

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Dr Wong Chen Seong, a consultant at the Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) told CNA in an interview on Monday (Mar 23) that the first week is when the viral levels “are at the highest” in an infected person’s respiratory secretions.

This means secretions from the nose and mouth produced when people cough, speak or sneeze, Dr Wong said.

After that, the viral level drops in the second week, which indicates that patients are “most infectious” in the first week, he added.

This is why the message by the authorities has been that if you have any symptoms, seek medical attention, Dr Wong reiterated.

“If you’re given a stay-home notice or asked to stay home on medical certificate, just stay at home. Avoid contact with people unnecessarily.”

Dr Wong was also asked if patients here have experienced the loss of the sense of smell, also known as anosmia, given that British healthcare experts flagged this as a symptom for COVID-19 infections last week.

To this, he said: "We have heard reports, especially from overseas, of patients losing their sense of smell.

"We've had a few patients here at NCID who have reported such symptoms as well. But as to how common it is, we don't really have a clear idea of that yet," the consultant added.

What, then, should people do if they are living with someone who may be symptomatic of the virus?

Dr Wong advised people to maintain really good personal hygiene at home.

The person who is displaying symptoms of the virus should isolate themselves in their own room as much as possible. In shared spaces, make sure good hand hygiene is practised and avoid sharing cutlery or food, he said.

Experts have been urging people to practise voluntary “social distancing” to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic, emphasising that it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing, not just those considered to be at high risk or who are seriously ill.

Social distancing involves minimizing exposure to infected individuals by avoiding large public gathering venues, adhering to spacing requirements in the workplace, and following proper personal hygiene practices.

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