Incubation period

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Incubation period is the time elapsed between exposure to a pathogenic organism, a chemical, or radiation, and when symptoms and signs are first apparent. In a typical infectious disease, incubation period signifies the period taken by the multiplying organism to reach a threshold necessary to produce symptoms in the host.

Time dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future

Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession through the past, in the present, and the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.

Organism Any individual living physical entity

In biology, an organism is any individual entity that exhibits the properties of life. It is a synonym for "life form".

Ionizing radiation radiation that carries enough energy to liberate electrons from atoms or molecules

Ionizing radiation is radiation that carries enough energy to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is made up of energetic subatomic particles, ions or atoms moving at high speeds, and electromagnetic waves on the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum.


In some diseases, as depicted in this diagram, latent period is shorter than incubation period. A person can transmit infection without showing any signs of the disease. Such infection is called subclinical infection. Concept of incubation period.svg
In some diseases, as depicted in this diagram, latent period is shorter than incubation period. A person can transmit infection without showing any signs of the disease. Such infection is called subclinical infection.

While latent or latency period may be synonymous, a distinction is sometimes made between incubation period, the period between infection and onset of the disease, and latent period, the time from infection to infectiousness. Which is shorter depends on the disease. A person may carry a disease, such as Streptococcus in the throat, without exhibiting any symptoms. Depending on the disease, the person may or may not be contagious during the incubation period.

<i>Streptococcus</i> genus of bacteria

Streptococcus is a genus of gram-positive coccus or spherical bacteria that belongs to the family Streptococcaceae, within the order Lactobacillales, in the phylum Firmicutes. Cell division in streptococci occurs along a single axis, so as they grow, they tend to form pairs or chains that may appear bent or twisted.

A contagious disease is a subset category of transmissible diseases, which are transmitted to other persons, either by physical contact with the person suffering the disease, or by casual contact with their secretions or objects touched by them or airborne route among other routes.

During latency, an infection is subclinical. With respect to viral infections, in incubation the virus is replicating. [1] This is in contrast to viral latency, a form of dormancy in which the virus does not replicate. An example of latency is HIV infection. HIV may at first have no symptoms and show no signs of AIDS, despite HIV replicating in the lymphatic system and rapidly accumulating a large viral load. These persons may be infectious.

Dormancy state of minimized physical activity of an organism

Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and physical activity are temporarily stopped. This minimizes metabolic activity and therefore helps an organism to conserve energy. Dormancy tends to be closely associated with environmental conditions. Organisms can synchronize entry to a dormant phase with their environment through predictive or consequential means. Predictive dormancy occurs when an organism enters a dormant phase before the onset of adverse conditions. For example, photoperiod and decreasing temperature are used by many plants to predict the onset of winter. Consequential dormancy occurs when organisms enter a dormant phase after adverse conditions have arisen. This is commonly found in areas with an unpredictable climate. While very sudden changes in conditions may lead to a high mortality rate among animals relying on consequential dormancy, its use can be advantageous, as organisms remain active longer and are therefore able to make greater use of available resources.

HIV human retrovirus, cause of AIDS

The human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) are two species of Lentivirus that causes HIV infection and over time acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype. In most cases, HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and occurs by contact with or transfer of blood, pre-ejaculate, semen, and vaginal fluids. Non-sexual transmission can occur from an infected mother to her infant during pregnancy, during childbirth by exposure to her blood or vaginal fluid, and through breast milk. Within these bodily fluids, HIV is present as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells.

Lymphatic system a part of the defense system (immune system) of vertebrate animals against pathogens

The lymphatic system is part of the vascular system and an important part of the immune system, comprising a large network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph directionally towards the heart. The lymphatic system was first described in the seventeenth century independently by Olaus Rudbeck and Thomas Bartholin. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system is not a closed system. The human circulatory system processes an average of 20 litres of blood per day through capillary filtration, which removes plasma while leaving the blood cells. Roughly 17 litres of the filtered plasma is reabsorbed directly into the blood vessels, while the remaining three litres remain in the interstitial fluid. One of the main functions of the lymph system is to provide an accessory return route to the blood for the surplus three litres.

Intrinsic and extrinsic incubation period

The terms "intrinsic incubation period" and "extrinsic incubation period" are used in vector-borne diseases. The intrinsic incubation period is the time taken by an organism to complete its development in the definitive host. The extrinsic incubation period is the time taken by an organism to complete its development in the intermediate host.

Vector (epidemiology) agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism

In epidemiology, a disease vector is any agent who carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; most agents regarded as vectors are organisms, such as intermediate parasites or microbes, but it could be an inanimate medium of infection such as dust particles.

Host (biology) organism that harbours another organism

In biology and medicine, a host is an organism that harbours a parasitic, a mutualistic, or a commensalist guest (symbiont), the guest typically being provided with nourishment and shelter. Examples include animals playing host to parasitic worms, cells harbouring pathogenic (disease-causing) viruses, a bean plant hosting mutualistic (helpful) nitrogen-fixing bacteria. More specifically in botany, a host plant supplies food resources to micropredators, which have an evolutionarily stable relationship with their hosts similar to ectoparasitism. The host range is the collection of hosts that an organism can use as a partner.

For example, once ingested by a mosquito, malaria parasites must undergo development within the mosquito before they are infectious to humans. The time required for development in the mosquito ranges from 10 to 28 days, depending on the parasite species and the temperature. This is the extrinsic incubation period of that parasite. If a female mosquito does not survive longer than the extrinsic incubation period, then she will not be able to transmit any malaria parasites. After a mosquito successfully transfers the parasite to a human body via a bite, the parasite starts developing. The time between the injection of the parasite into the human and the development of the first symptoms of malaria is its intrinsic incubation period. [2]

Determining factors

The specific incubation period for a disease process is the result of multiple factors, including:

Examples for human

Due to inter-individual variation, the incubation period is always expressed as a range. When possible, it is best to express the mean and the 10th and 90th percentiles, though this information is not always available. The values below are arranged roughly in ascending order, although in some cases the mean had to be inferred.

For many conditions, incubation periods are longer in adults than they are in children or infants.

Cellulitis caused by Pasteurella multocida 01days [3]
Chicken pox 921days [4]
Cholera 0.54.5days [5]
Erythema infectiosum (Fifth disease)1318days [6]
Influenza 13days [7]
Common cold 13days [8] [9]
Dengue fever 314days [10]
Ebola 121 (95%), 42 (98%)days [11]
Roseola 515days [12]
HIV 23weeks to months, or longer [13]
Infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever)2842days [14]
Kuru disease 10.313.2years (mean) [15]
Marburg 510days [16]
Measles 912days [17]
Mumps 1418days [18]
Norovirus 12days [19]
Pertussis (whooping cough)714days [20]
Polio 714days [21]
Rabies 13months, but may vary from <1 week to >1 year. [22]
Rocky Mountain spotted fever 214days [23]
Rubella (German measles)1421days [24]
Salmonella 1224hours [25]
Scarlet fever 14days [26]
SARS 110days [27]
Smallpox 717days [28]
Tetanus 721days [29]

See also

In medicine, a prodrome is an early sign or symptom, which often indicate the onset of a disease before more diagnostically specific signs and symptoms develop. It is derived from the Greek word prodromos, meaning "running before". Prodromes may be non-specific symptoms or, in a few instances, may clearly indicate a particular disease, such as the prodromal migraine aura.

Quarantine Epidemiological intervention to prevent disease transmission

A quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of people; it is a "restraint upon the activities or communication of persons or the transport of goods designed to prevent the spread of disease or pests," for a certain period of time. This is often used in connection to disease and illness, such as those who may possibly have been exposed to a communicable disease, but do not have a confirmed medical diagnosis. The term is often erroneously used to mean medical isolation, which is "to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy," and refers to patients whose diagnosis has been confirmed.

In medicine, the window period for a test designed to detect a specific disease is the time between first infection and when the test can reliably detect that infection. In antibody-based testing, the window period is dependent on the time taken for seroconversion.

Related Research Articles

Yellow fever viral disease

Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains particularly in the back, and headaches. Symptoms typically improve within five days. In about 15% of people, within a day of improving the fever comes back, abdominal pain occurs, and liver damage begins causing yellow skin. If this occurs, the risk of bleeding and kidney problems is also increased.

Encephalitis Brain disease that is characterized as an acute inflammation of the brain with flu-like symptoms

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. Severity is variable. Symptoms may include headache, fever, confusion, a stiff neck, and vomiting. Complications may include seizures, hallucinations, trouble speaking, memory problems, and problems with hearing.

West Nile fever human disease

West Nile fever is an infection by the West Nile virus which is typically spread by mosquitoes. In about 80% of infections people have few or no symptoms. About 20% of people develop a fever, headache, vomiting, or a rash. In less than 1% of people, encephalitis or meningitis occurs, with associated neck stiffness, confusion, or seizures. Recovery may take weeks to months. The risk of death among those in whom the nervous system is affected is about 10%.

Dengue fever tropical disease caused by the dengue virus, transmitted by mosquito

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection. This may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. Recovery generally takes two to seven days. In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

Infectious mononucleosis common viral infectious disease

Infectious mononucleosis, also known as glandular fever, is an infection usually caused by the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV). Most people are infected by the virus as children, when the disease produces few or no symptoms. In young adults, the disease often results in fever, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, and tiredness. Most people recover in two to four weeks; however, feeling tired may last for months. The liver or spleen may also become swollen, and in less than one percent of cases splenic rupture may occur.

Epstein–Barr virus virus of the herpes family

The Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), formally called Human gammaherpesvirus 4, is one of eight known human herpesvirus types in the herpes family, and is one of the most common viruses in humans.

Chikungunya infection caused by the chikungunya virus

Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Symptoms include fever and joint pain. These typically occur two to twelve days after exposure. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and a rash. Symptoms usually improve within a week; however, occasionally the joint pain may last for months. The risk of death is around 1 in 1,000. The very young, old, and those with other health problems are at risk of more severe disease.


Arbovirus is an informal name used to refer to any viruses that are transmitted by arthropod vectors. The word arbovirus is an acronym. The word tibovirus is sometimes used to more specifically describe viruses transmitted by ticks, a superorder within the arthropods. Arboviruses can affect both animals, including humans, and plants. In humans, symptoms of arbovirus infection generally occur 3–15 days after exposure to the virus and last three or four days. The most common clinical features of infection are fever, headache, and malaise, but encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever may also occur.

Viral hepatitis hepatitis that involves viral infection causing inflammation of the liver

Viral hepatitis is liver inflammation due to a viral infection. It may present in acute form as a recent infection with relatively rapid onset, or in chronic form.

<i>Dengue virus</i> cause of dengue fever

Dengue virus (DENV) is the cause of dengue fever. It is a mosquito-borne single positive-stranded RNA virus of the family Flaviviridae; genus Flavivirus. Five serotypes of the virus have been found, all of which can cause the full spectrum of disease. Nevertheless, scientists' understanding of dengue virus may be simplistic, as rather than distinct antigenic groups there appears to be a continuum. This same study identified 47 strains of dengue virus. Additionally, coinfection with and lack of rapid tests for zika virus and chikungunya complicate matters in real world infections.

Japanese encephalitis infection of the brain caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is an infection of the brain caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). While most infections result in little or no symptoms, occasional inflammation of the brain occurs. In these cases symptoms may include headache, vomiting, fever, confusion, and seizures. This occurs about 5 to 15 days after infection.

Oropouche fever Human disease

Oropouche fever is a tropical viral infection transmitted by biting midges and mosquitoes from the blood of sloths to humans. This disease is named after the region where it was first discovered and isolated at the Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory in 1955 by the Oropouche River in Trinidad and Tobago. Oropouche fever is caused by a specific arbovirus, the Oropouche virus (OROV), of the Bunyaviridae family.

California encephalitis orthobunyavirus or California encephalitis virus was discovered in Kern County, California and causes encephalitis in humans. Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain that can cause minor symptoms, such as headaches, to more severe symptoms such as seizures. Mosquitoes serve as its carrier and for this reason this virus is known as an arbovirus.

An emerging infectious disease (EID) is an infectious disease whose incidence has increased in the past 20 years and could increase in the near future. Emerging infections account for at least 12% of all human pathogens. EIDs are caused by newly identified species or strains that may have evolved from a known infection or spread to a new population or to an area undergoing ecologic transformation, or be reemerging infections, like drug resistant tuberculosis. Nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus are emerging in hospitals, and extremely problematic in that they are resistant to many antibiotics. Of growing concern are adverse synergistic interactions between emerging diseases and other infectious and non-infectious conditions leading to the development of novel syndemics. Many emerging diseases are zoonotic - an animal reservoir incubates the organism, with only occasional transmission into human populations.

Herpes gladiatorum is one of the most infectious of herpes-caused diseases, and is transmissible by skin-to-skin contact. The disease was first described in the 1960s in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is caused by contagious infection with human herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which more commonly causes oral herpes. Another strain, HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes, although the strains are very similar and either can cause herpes in any location.

Zika fever infectious arboviral disease

Zika fever, also known as Zika virus disease or simply Zika, is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus. Most cases have no symptoms, but when present they are usually mild and can resemble dengue fever. Symptoms may include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash. Symptoms generally last less than seven days. It has not caused any reported deaths during the initial infection. Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies. Infections in adults have been linked to Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).

Mosquito-borne disease

Mosquito-borne diseases or mosquito-borne illnesses are diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. They can transmit disease without being affected themselves. Nearly 700 million people get a mosquito-borne illness each year resulting in over one million deaths.

<i>Zika virus</i> Species of virus

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae. It is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. Its name comes from the Ziika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. Zika virus is related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses. Since the 1950s, it has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. From 2007 to 2016, the virus spread eastward, across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas, leading to the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic.

The stages of HIV infection are acute infection, latency and AIDS. Acute infection lasts for several weeks and may include symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, inflammation of the throat, rash, muscle pain, malaise, and mouth and esophageal sores. The latency stage involves few or no symptoms and can last anywhere from two weeks to twenty years or more, depending on the individual. AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection, is defined by low CD4+ T cell counts, various opportunistic infections, cancers and other conditions.

<i>West Nile virus</i> species of virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that causes West Nile fever. It is a member of the family Flaviviridae, specifically from the genus Flavivirus, which also contains the Zika virus, dengue virus, and yellow fever virus. West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, mostly species of the genus Culex. The primary hosts of WNV are birds, so that the virus remains within a "bird–mosquito–bird" transmission cycle.


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