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. 2020 May;92(5):476-478.
doi: 10.1002/jmv.25708. Epub 2020 Feb 24.

Does SARS-CoV-2 Has a Longer Incubation Period Than SARS and MERS?

Free PMC article

Does SARS-CoV-2 Has a Longer Incubation Period Than SARS and MERS?

Xuan Jiang et al. J Med Virol. .
Free PMC article


The outbreak of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) since December 2019 in Wuhan, the major transportation hub in central China, became an emergency of major international concern. While several etiological studies have begun to reveal the specific biological features of this virus, the epidemic characteristics need to be elucidated. Notably, a long incubation time was reported to be associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, leading to adjustments in screening and control policies. To avoid the risk of virus spread, all potentially exposed subjects are required to be isolated for 14 days, which is the longest predicted incubation time. However, based on our analysis of a larger dataset available so far, we find there is no observable difference between the incubation time for SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), highlighting the need for larger and well-annotated datasets.

Keywords: coronavirus; incubation; local infection/replication/spread; pandemic; virulence.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Estimated incubation times for SARS‐CoV‐2, SARS‐CoV, and MERS‐CoV. A, Fitted Weibull, lognormal, and gamma distributions to data from 49 SARS‐CoV‐2 infected patients with defined exposure start date, exposure end date, and symptoms onset date. B, Corresponding analysis for 153 SARS‐CoV patients consolidated from seven different studies. C, Corresponding analysis for 70 MERS‐CoV patients consolidated from four different studies. D, Box and whisker plot showing distribution of incubation times for each of the individual studies used in (A), (B), and (C) and one additional MERS dataset that was not included in the analysis. E, Estimated incubation times for SARS‐CoV‐2, SARS‐CoV, and MERS‐CoV. See Table S1 for raw data and references

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