The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application

Stephen A. Lauer, MS, PhD; Kyra H. Grantz, BA; Qifang Bi, MHS; Forrest K. Jones, MPH; Qulu Zheng, MHS; Hannah R. Meredith, PhD; Andrew S. Azman, PhD; Nicholas G. Reich, PhD; Justin Lessler, PhD

Published: March 10, 2020


We searched for news and public health reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases in areas with no known community transmission, including provinces, regions, and countries outside Hubei. We searched for reports in both English and Chinese and abstracted the data necessary to estimate the incubation period of COVID-19. Two authors independently reviewed the full text of each case report. Discrepancies were resolved by discussion and consensus.

We collected data from 181 cases with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection detected outside Hubei province before 24 February 2020. Of these, 69 (38%) were female, 108 were male (60%), and 4 (2%) were of unknown sex. The median age was 44.5 years (interquartile range, 34.0 to 55.5 years).

The median incubation period was estimated to be 5.1 days (95% CI, 4.5 to 5.8 days), and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days (CI, 8.2 to 15.6 days) of infection. These estimates imply that, under conservative assumptions, 101 out of every 10 000 cases (99th percentile, 482) will develop symptoms after 14 days of active monitoring or quarantine.


Annals of Internal Medicine – DOI: