Latency Period

By James Parker
August 31, 2022

What Is a Latency Period?

The latency period of a disease is a period of time before symptoms of a disease become noticeable. A latency period can refer to either the time before an initial presentation of a condition or the length of time that a disease is dormant before re-emerging.

Latency among dormant diseases occurs when the body has combated a disease, but dormant viruses or bacteria still exist in bodily tissues. Two groups of diseases that have latency periods between periods of emergence are chronic and recurrent diseases.

The virus family Herpesviridae is particularly notorious for its latency periods. The herpes simplex virus, for example, causes cold sores to occur periodically. Even after a cold sore disappears, the herpes simplex virus still exists but has entered a latency period where it will lie dormant.

By contrast, diseases like cancers can have a latency period of years or even decades. Some cancers can grow without symptoms for years before manifesting symptoms that will lead a person to seek medical attention culminating with a visit to an oncologist.

Key Takeaways

  • The latency period is the length of time before a disease presents symptoms that enable detection.
  • Latency period can refer to the time before the initial presentation, or it can refer to the time between presentations of a chronic or recurrent disease.
  • Many asbestos-related diseases can have a latency period of decades following the initial exposure.
  • If you have been exposed to asbestos and developed an asbestos-related disease after a latency period, an experienced Personal Injury attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

Latency Periods, Asbestos, and Personal Injury Law

When it comes to victims of asbestos exposure, the first hurdle to seeking justice can be recognizing that a health condition is connected to asbestos. As with many other carcinogens, asbestos-related diseases can have a very long latency period.

There are many asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis, pleural diseases, and mesothelioma. These conditions can have variable latency periods depending on the mechanism of how the disease manifests.

For example, mesothelioma generally occurs in four stages:

  1. Asbestos fibers are inhaled
  2. The asbestos fibers settle in the lungs near the mesothelium
  3. The inhaled asbestos fibers cause inflammation in the area they settle
  4. The constant inflammation leads to mutagenic conditions that lead to cancer.

How long the latency period lasts before mesothelioma presents in a patient can depend on several factors, including how much asbestos someone is exposed to, how old the person is, and how long that exposure lasts.

In general, the latency period of mesothelioma can last from 10 - 50 years, with a median latency period of 32 - 34 years. In some rare instances, the latency period can be under 10 years or over 70 years.

The latency period for other asbestos diseases can similarly take over a decade to present. Asbestosis can present anywhere from 15 to 30 years after initial asbestos exposure. Similarly, pleural diseases such as pleural plaques take between 20 and 30 years to present.

Once an asbestos-related disease has emerged from its latency period, various diagnostic tests, including aspiration, can be used to confirm that the root of the issue is asbestos exposure. Once verified, victims can seek treatment, symptom relief, or justice.

Bottom Line

If you have been exposed to any form of asbestos and have developed any cancers, including mesothelioma or asbestosis, following a latency period, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the costs of medical expenses, pain, suffering, or lost wages. In order to file and prevail in your personal injury lawsuit, you will need the help of an experienced Personal Injury Attorney.

With their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Personal Injury attorney will be able to zealously advocate for you in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Additionally, since Personal Injury attorneys work on contingency, if you don’t win, you don’t pay.

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