• Boston Senior Medicine

COVID-19 Contamination vs. Infection. What's the difference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding COVID-19 and for good reason: it’s new and we don’t know much about it. We’ll spend a few minutes clarifying the issue of contamination vs. infection. In short, being contaminated with COVID-19 is not the same as being infected with COVID 19.




Contamination means exposed to or in contact with a harmful or poisonous substance, in this case, COVID-19. Objects can be contaminated- such as a grocery cart, a credit card pin pad, or a door handle. Persons can become contaminated by touching a contaminated surface or coming in direct contact with a person with COVID-19. This allows the virus to be spread from person to person without anyone realizing it.

Infection means being affected by or having symptoms from a harmful organism, again COVID-19 in this case. We understand that a person can be infected without any symptoms or with only mild symptoms. Regardless of symptom severity, infection means the COVID-19 is in your body and has replicated itself.


The Incubation Period is the time between when the virus gets into your body and the time you begin to show symptoms. This is a second factor that allows the virus to be spread from person to person without anyone realizing it. In this case, for 2-14 days.

The incubation period is also why we recommend masks in public. A person may have COVID-19, spread the virus, and not realize it for 2-14 days. With such a variable incubation period and a virus that spreads so quickly and easily, we have a world wide pandemic on our hands.


In our next post, we’ll discuss Keys to COVID-19 Prevention. Click here to be notified.


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