Is it possible to be infected with the coronavirus and show no symptoms? Or go through a period of several days before symptoms kick in?

And even in this stage with no cough, no fever, no sign of illness, could you be transmitting the virus to others?

“There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has this ability to spread silently,” says Shweta Bansal, an infectious disease modeler at Georgetown University.

Indeed, cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residentschoir groups and families fuel a growing concern about people who are infected, yet feel generally OK and go about their daily lives, giving the virus to friends, family members and strangers without knowing that they themselves have it.

But there are wide gaps in our understanding of how many people fit this category of “silent spreaders” — as they’re called by some public health researchers — and how much they contribute to transmission of the disease.

Silent spreaders can be divided into three categories: asymptomatic, presymptomatic and very mildly symptomatic. Here’s what we know about these variations.

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