Coronavirus: Are you contagious before you have symptoms?

Walk into any business that has reopened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and you’ll likely see signs that ask patrons to stay home if they’re experiencing any symptoms of the virus.

But what happens if someone has no symptoms and tests positive for the virus days after spending time around other people?

Could the unknowing infected person have spread the virus?

The short answer is yes.

According to The Associated Press, studies have shown that people may be contagious for about two days before developing COVID-19 symptoms.

In fact, people are likely the most contagious right before they develop symptoms, Dr. Werner Bischoff, an infectious disease specialist at Wake Forest University, told the AP.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of transmissions occur before an infected person has any symptoms.

Plus, people can spread COVID-19 even if they don’t ever have symptoms. About 40% of coronavirus cases occur in people who have no symptoms, the CDC found.

For those who are worried about potentially being infected after they’ve been around someone they suspect may have the virus, the most accurate way to find out is to get tested 7 to 10 days after potential exposure. That time frame accounts for the incubation period in which the virus could go undetected. Getting tested before then could lead to inconclusive results by way of a negative test result. That would give false confidence for a potentially infected person who might consider spending time around others.

“That is why if you have had a credible exposure, you should wear a mask and you should self-quarantine if there’s any question,” Bischoff told the AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.