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Virus’s Lifespan: Coronavirus may live in Patients for up to 37 days

A new study shows that the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may possibly stay in your body for 37 days.

A new study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the Novel Coronavirus lived in the respiratory tracts of some patients for more than five weeks. Some of the patients received antiviral medications, but the drug did not appear to shorten the virus’s lifespan.

The 19 doctors who authored the study analyzed the medical records of 191 patients in China (135 from Jinyintan Hospital and 56 from Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital). The researchers extracted demographic, clinical, treatment and laboratory data, including serial samples for viral RNA detection, from electronic medical records and compared these between survivors and nonsurvivors. They used univariable and multivariable logistic regression methods to explore the risk factors associated with in-hospital death.

They found that the virus was present in the bodies of patients with severe disease status for an average of 19 days, and inside the bodies of patients with critical disease status for an average of 24 days.

“This has important implications for both patient isolation decision making and guidance around the length of antiviral treatment,” the authors of the study concluded.

Overall, the virus was detected for an average of 20 days in patients who were eventually discharged from the hospital. In the respiratory tracts of patients who died, coronavirus was detectable until death.

The shortest length of time the virus lived in the respiratory tract of a survivor was eight days. And perhaps most shocking of all, in some cases, the virus persisted for as long as 37 days.

Dr. David Agus, a CBS News medical contributor says using this study’s findings to extrapolate how long a person might be contagious is probably taking it a step too far.

“This is an important study to understand the medical course of patients who have symptomatic cases of COVID-19 infection,” he said in an email. “I would be very cautious to use these data to quantify periods of being infectious. This information has yet to be determined definitively.”