Our current understanding of the incubation period for COVID-19 is limited. An early analysis based on 88 confirmed cases in Chinese provinces outside Wuhan, using data on known travel to and from Wuhan to estimate the exposure interval, indicated a mean incubation period of 6.4 days (95% CI, 5.6 to 7.7 days), with a range of 2.1 to 11.1 days (7). Another analysis based on 158 confirmed cases outside Wuhan estimated a median incubation period of 5.0 days (CI, 4.4 to 5.6 days), with a range of 2 to 14 days (8). These estimates are generally consistent with estimates from 10 confirmed cases in China (mean incubation period, 5.2 days [CI, 4.1 to 7.0 days] [9]) and from clinical reports of a familial cluster of COVID-19 in which symptom onset occurred 3 to 6 days after assumed exposure in Wuhan (1). These estimates of the incubation period of SARS-CoV-2 are also in line with those of other known human coronaviruses, including SARS (mean, 5 days; range, 2 to 14 days [10]), MERS (mean, 5 to 7 days; range, 2 to 14 days [11]), and non-SARS human coronavirus (mean, 3 days; range, 2 to 5 days [12]).The incubation period can inform several important public health activities for infectious diseases, including active monitoring, surveillance, control, and modeling. Active monitoring requires potentially exposed persons to contact local health authorities to report their health status every day. Understanding the length of active monitoring needed to limit the risk for missing SARS-CoV-2 infections is necessary for health departments to effectively use limited resources. In this article, we provide estimates of the incubation period of COVID-19 and the number of symptomatic infections missed under different active monitoring scenarios.


Foundation for Statistical Computing
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