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The Easter Long Weekend Is Over, So When Are People Likely To Test Positive For COVID?

Many Aussies have enjoyed reuniting with family and friends for Easter. However, if exposed to COVID, how long before you test positive?

According to Harvard Medical School, people with COVID are most contagious during the first days of the infection. That means typically 1-2 days before you experience symptoms and 1-2 days after that. 

COVID-positive people can still pass on the virus if they do not show symptoms, as symptoms vary from person to person.

So how soon after being exposed are you likely to experience symptoms?

Research indicates that symptoms typically start to show around three days after contracting the virus.

So if you contracted COVID from someone on Good Friday, you might have started to show symptoms yesterday. 

As far as symptoms to look out for go, we are all quite well-versed by now to look out for fatigue, runny nose, loss of smell or taste, headache, tiredness, and a cough.

However, gastro-like symptoms seem to be on the rise among COVID-19 patients lately, with reports of diarrhoea, vomiting and loss of appetite becoming common complaints. 

So when should you take a test if you suspect you may have COVID-19?

Preliminary research on Omicron suggests RATs may not detect COVID-19 until at least two days after someone is exposed to the virus, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says they are not as accurate if you do not have symptoms.

So it's likely you won't test positive on a RAT until a few days after exposure, but you could still get a false negative result on a RAT even after a few days.

On the other hand, PCR tests are likely to detect the virus earlier than RATs.

Professor Peter Richmond, a vaccine and paediatrics expert at the University of Western Australia, says you shouldn't rush out to get tested the day after you think you could have been exposed to the virus. It's unlikely the virus will be picked up that early.

"You want to wait two to three days before you get your PCR test," he said, and the same goes for RATs.

If you've returned a negative result on a RAT, but you still have symptoms, the advice is to isolate for another 24 hours before doing another RAT or undertaking a PCR test.

RATs work by detecting a protein the virus produces and giving yourself another day may give the virus more time to produce a detectable amount of that protein.

"In that interval, if you do have COVID, you will have increased the amount of virus you have and, therefore, increased the amount of protein and will then get a positive RAT," Professor Richmond said.