Early Isolation is the Best Way to Slow COVID-19 Spread Among Family Members, CDC Advises
Family members who are suspected of having COVID-19 need to isolate from others as early as possible to reduce the spread of infection, warns the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers found that the coronavirus is likely to spread within households, and when it does, it happens quite rapidly, according to a CDC study published on Friday.
As the virus spreads so quickly, the CDC says it is important for people with COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate—even before a test confirms a positive diagnosis.
These recommendations come as the United States is reporting its highest daily totals of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Many hospitals in the Midwest and West are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and other hospitals may become overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
With cooler weather, there will be fewer opportunities for outdoor gatherings, typically considered less risky for the spread of respiratory viruses. Health authorities are already warning against large indoor holiday gatherings, fearing a COVID-19 surge.
As of Monday, there have been 9.22 million cases and 231,077 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
“Since immediate isolation of persons with COVID-19 can reduce household transmission, persons who suspect that they might have COVID-19 should isolate, stay at home, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible,” the researchers wrote.
Masks should also always be worn in common areas of the house or apartment, they added.
The Speed at Which COVID-19 Spreads The study, part of ongoing CDC research, followed 101 people infected with COVID-19 in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marshfield, Wisconsin, between April and September.
They and their family members were asked to collect nasal swabs or a combination of nasal swabs and saliva samples every day for 14 days. They were also required to keep a symptom diary.
Over half of the people living with a COVID-19 positive person were infected within a week. Nearly 75% of that group tested positive within five days after the first patient had initial symptoms.
The CDC says this is a higher rate than previously reported. It includes both children and adults. Earlier reports suggested an infection rate of 20% to 40%.
Oftentimes, people with confirmed SARS-COV-2 infections were asymptomatic.
How to Properly Isolate So what is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones when the virus is potentially in your home?
If you have an older or immunocompromised person living with you, they should isolate in a separate part of the house so the rest of the family is not in regular contact with them, Dr. Tanya Altmann, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, previously told CNN.
If a child has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, one adult should isolate and care for the child, while another cares for the rest of the family, she said.
Make sure everyone in the house uses separate cups, plates, utensils, towels, and bedding. When handling dirty laundry, always use disposable gloves that can be thrown away immediately afterward, the CDC recommends. Wash hands right after removing the gloves.
Do the same when handling any trash from an infected person. And clean and disinfect all surfaces regularly.
Even with these precautions, however, experts say the entire household should isolate from the outside world, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Ask a neighbor, family member, or friend who doesn’t live with you to drop off groceries or medications. It’s a good idea to stock up on essentials like those on this list compiled by Harvard Health and other experts:
- A working thermometer
- Fever-reducing medications and at least a 60-day supply of any prescribed medications
- Cleaning materials, disinfectants, soap, and 70% alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Disposable rubber or latex gloves and face masks
- Toilet paper, tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers, paper products, and garbage bags
- At least a two-week supply of non-perishable food
According to the CDC, if the test came back positive for the coronavirus but you never developed any symptoms, you can stop isolating at home 10 days after your positive test.
If you had symptoms, then you need to isolate until you have been without a fever for 24 hours, your other symptoms are improving, and it has been at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms.
For anyone with severe COVID-19 who needed hospitalization, your healthcare provider may recommend isolating for a longer period.