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This is when coronavirus patients are most contagious

Coronavirus patients are most contagious during their first week showing symptoms, new research suggests.

The early, albeit “limited” study of nine patients in Germany found very high levels of the virus in the throat of those patients at their earliest onsets of sickness, according to the scientist behind the research published in Nature journal.

That means those who fall ill could still be going about their daily lives when they’re most contagious.

The findings could offer a glimpse into the rapid spread of the disease and provide guidance for overwhelmed hospitals that are short on beds, the scientists said.

Many patients showing milder symptoms could safely be discharged to self-isolate at home 10 days after they first showed signs of the illness, according to the research.

“In a situation characterized by limited capacity of hospital beds in infectious diseases wards, there is pressure for early discharge following treatment,” reads the study, lead by Christian Drosten and Clemens Wendtner.

“Both criteria predict that there is little residual risk of infectivity, based on cell culture,” it went on.

The viral “shedding” of the disease dropped off significantly after five days of symptoms in seven of the nine patients; the other two developed early signs of pneumonia and had high levels of the virus 10 or 11 days after falling ill, the scientists found.

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Comparing the peak contagious points for coronavirus and SARS patients, those infected with coronavirus gave off 1,000 times more virus than those infected with SARS, scientists found. And the SARS peak came later on, around day seven to ten days after patients first became sick.

But the study was limited in that no severe cases were observed, the scientists said. The nine patients were mild, all young- to middle-aged without significant underlying diseases.

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