The estimations of the COVID-19 incubation period: A scoping reviews of the literature

Nazar Zaki, Elfadil A. Mohamed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the world by storm. The disease has spread very swiftly worldwide. A timely clue which includes the estimation of the incubation period among COVID-19 patients can allow governments and healthcare authorities to act accordingly. Objectives: to undertake a review and critical appraisal of all published/preprint reports that offer an estimation of incubation periods for COVID-19. Eligibility criteria: This research looked for all relevant published articles between the dates of December 1, 2019, and April 25, 2020, i.e. those that were related to the COVID-19 incubation period. Papers were included if they were written in English, and involved human participants. Papers were excluded if they were not original (e.g. reviews, editorials, letters, commentaries, or duplications). Sources of evidence: COVID-19 Open Research Dataset supplied by Georgetown's Centre for Security and Emerging Technology as well as PubMed and Embase via Arxiv, medRxiv, and bioRxiv. Charting methods: A data-charting form was jointly developed by the two reviewers (NZ and EA), to determine which variables to extract. The two reviewers independently charted the data, discussed the results, and updated the data-charting form. Results and conclusions: Screening was undertaken 44,000 articles with a final selection of 25 studies referring to 18 different experimental projects related to the estimation of the incubation period of COVID-19. The majority of extant published estimates offer empirical evidence showing that the incubation period for the virus is a mean of 7.8 days, with a median of 5.01 days, which falls into the ranges proposed by the WHO (0–14 days) and the ECDC (2–12 days). Nevertheless, a number of authors proposed that quarantine time should be a minimum of 14 days and that for estimates of mortality risks a median time delay of 13 days between illness and mortality should be under consideration. It is unclear as to whether any correlation exists between the age of patients and the length of time they incubate the virus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-646
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Infection and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Incubation period
  • Infectious disease
  • Pandemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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