Does SARS-CoV-2 has a longer incubation period than SARS and MERS?

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


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.

MeSH terms

  • Basic Reproduction Number*
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity*
  • COVID-19
  • China
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Incubation Period*
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / pathogenicity
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / pathology
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / pathogenicity
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Latency