Coronavirus Vocabulary: Asymptomatic vs. Presymptomatic

Published On Sep 29, 2020

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Coronavirus has been teaching us a lot about infectious disease and public health, but it's also teaching us a lot of new words. I'm going to help you talk coronavirus. It really is learning a new language.

What's the difference between asymptomatic and presymptomatic? Asymptomatic means you don't have symptoms, but you're infected with the virus. Presymptomatic means you're infected, and you're shedding the virus. But you don't yet have symptoms, which you ultimately develop.

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that you may be most contagious in the presymptomatic stage before you have any symptoms. For those of you around my age, you may remember chicken pox before there was a vaccine. It spread so quickly because children were most infectious right before the rash appeared.