Latency and Incubation Periods

The starting point of a communicable disease is the exposure of the host to the infectious agent. When communicable diseases are considered as a whole, two different processes have to be distinguished in their evolution over time: infectiveness and disease. Infectiveness consists of two successive periods: the latency period and the period of communicability. The disease process encompasses the incubation period and the clinical signs and symptoms. Whereas the knowledge of infectiveness is of paramount importance for microbiological, pharmacological, and public health purposes, the main interest in the disease process hinges on the clinical care of the patient.

The incubation period is the time that elapses between the initial exposure of the host to the infectious agent and the first appearance of the clinical manifestations (signs ...

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