Clearing confusion on asymptomatic spread

August 12, 2020

Clearing confusion on asymptomatic spread

Confusion abounds about the difference between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections when it comes to the pandemic coronavirus. Dr. John Lynch, medical director of infection prevention and control at Harborview, explains asymptomatic means someone doesn't show symptoms the entire time they have this coronavirus in their body.

Pre-symptomatic describes the period of time before someone develops signs of illness. But, whether someone is asymptomatic or presymptomatic doesn't really matter to the general public. Either way, anyone carrying the  coronavirus can spread the disease. 

"I think what we really want to send home is that you can have no symptoms, feel well and transmit this virus to other people," Lynch says.

That's why the practices of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and physical distancing are so important to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Getty Images

Terms of appropriate usage of file downloads

  • News reporters and news organizations may freely republish and distribute videos, still images and audio files produced by UW Medicine.
  • Works must be attributed/credited appropriately (for example, “UW Medicine” or “University of Washington School of Medicine” – as denoted in the file) and must not be used for commercial purposes.
  • These visual and audio files may not be used to exploit or misrepresent UW Medicine or the University of Washington.
  • UW Medicine often licenses still images from Getty Images. Since we do not own a copyright for these image files, you may not republish images credited to Getty Images.
  • Logos of UW Medicine may not be republished without explicit permission. Contact us by phone or email: 206.543.3620 or