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Title: Estimating the generation interval and inferring the latent period of COVID-19 from the contact tracing data
Authors: Zhao, S
Tang, B
Musa, SS 
Ma, S
Zhang, J
Zeng, M
Yun, Q
Guo, W
Zheng, Y
Yang, Z
Peng, Z
Chong, MK
Javanbakht, M
He, D 
Wang, MH
Issue Date: Sep-2021
Source: Epidemics, Sept. 2021, v. 36, 100482
Abstract: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emerged by end of 2019, and became a serious public health threat globally in less than half a year. The generation interval and latent period, though both are of importance in understanding the features of COVID-19 transmission, are difficult to observe, and thus they can rarely be learnt from surveillance data empirically. In this study, we develop a likelihood framework to estimate the generation interval and incubation period simultaneously by using the contact tracing data of COVID-19 cases, and infer the pre-symptomatic transmission proportion and latent period thereafter. We estimate the mean of incubation period at 6.8 days (95 %CI: 6.2, 7.5) and SD at 4.1 days (95 %CI: 3.7, 4.8), and the mean of generation interval at 6.7 days (95 %CI: 5.4, 7.6) and SD at 1.8 days (95 %CI: 0.3, 3.8). The basic reproduction number is estimated ranging from 1.9 to 3.6, and there are 49.8 % (95 %CI: 33.3, 71.5) of the secondary COVID-19 infections likely due to pre-symptomatic transmission. Using the best estimates of model parameters, we further infer the mean latent period at 3.3 days (95 %CI: 0.2, 7.9). Our findings highlight the importance of both isolation for symptomatic cases, and for the pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
Keywords: Contact tracing
Generation interval
Incubation period
Latent period
Serial interval
Statistical inference
Publisher: Elsevier
Journal: Epidemics 
ISSN: 1755-4365
EISSN: 1878-0067
DOI: 10.1016/j.epidem.2021.100482
Rights: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
The following publication Zhao, S., Tang, B., Musa, S. S., Ma, S., Zhang, J., Zeng, M., ... & Wang, M. H. (2021). Estimating the generation interval and inferring the latent period of COVID-19 from the contact tracing data. Epidemics, 36, 100482 is available at
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