What are the incubation periods for infections?

Incubation periods vary, depending on the type of infection. The incubation period is the time between catching an infection and symptoms appearing.

Infection incubation periods

Below are examples of the incubation periods for some infections:

  • chickenpox: 10-21 days
  • diphtheria: 2-5 days
  • influenza: up to 7 days, although usually just 2-3 days
  • measles: about 10 days, with a further 2-4 days before the rash appears
  • mumps: around 17 days, with a range of 12-25 days
  • rubella (German measles): 14-21 days; the time you can infect someone else is from one week until 4 days before the rash appears
  • slapped cheek syndrome (also known as parvovirus or fifth disease); usually 13-18 days, but can be as long as 20 days
  • tetanus: 4-21 days, most commonly about 10 days
  • whooping cough (pertussis): 7-10 days 

Infectious period

The infectious period is not necessarily the same as the incubation period. With some viruses, such as chickenpox, the person may be infectious before symptoms start to show.

Read the answers to more questions about infections.

Further information:


Immunisation advances

Elizabeth Farrelly, OBE, the first female governor of an NHS hospital, describes how immunisation in the NHS has advanced since her childhood.

Media last reviewed: 20/11/2013

Next review due: 20/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2014

Next review due: 28/02/2016