Asymptomatic people not guilty of spreading COVID-19 virus, says WHO

Asymptomatic people not guilty of spreading COVID-19 virus, says WHO
India has also strengthened testing capacity to 3 lakh samples per day.

Numerous studies have suggested that the COVID-19 virus is spreading from people without symptoms. But WHO says that this may not be the case in reality.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : June 10, 2020 12:09 PM IST

The COVID-19 pandemic has the world in its grip even after more than 5 months. Yet, experts and organisations keep changing their statement regarding the spread of the disease as new research comes to light. This is all very confusing for the common man and one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to contain the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization now says that it still believes that the spread of the novel coronavirus from people without symptoms is 'rare'. This statement comes despite warnings from numerous experts worldwide that such transmission is more frequent. Many experts have come on record to say that this is probably what explains makes the pandemic so hard to contain.

Asymptomatic carriers may account for just 6 per cent of spread

Yesterday, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on COVID-19 said at a press briefing that many countries are reporting cases of spread from people who are asymptomatic, or those with no clinical symptoms. But when questioned in more detail about these cases, Van Kerkhove said many of them turn out to have mild disease, or unusual symptoms.

Although health officials in countries including Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that COVID-19 is spreading from people without symptoms, WHO has maintained that this type of spread is not a driver of the pandemic and is probably accounts for about 6 per cent of spread, at the most.

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Most reports of spread from asymptomatic people anecdotal

Numerous studies have suggested that the virus is spreading from people without symptoms, but many of those are either anecdotal reports or based on modeling. Van Kerkhove said that based on data from countries, when people with no symptoms of COVID-19 are tracked over a long period to see if they spread the disease, there are very few cases of spread. The premire organization is constantly looking at this data and trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. In their view, it still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.

Some experts beg to differ

An earlier paper, published in JAMA, had claimed that an asymptomatic carrier can pass on the virus to others. This raised concerns across the word because, if this was the case, then containment would be next to impossible. Researchers of this study had claimed that 'if the findings in this report of presumed transmission by an asymptomatic carrier are replicated, the prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging'. Meanwhile a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine had also reported that a woman from Shanghai, with absolutely no symptoms, had passed the infection to a German man. But later on, it turned out that the woman had mild symptoms of muscle pain and fatigue.

Possible ways of transmission

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. It spreads via droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You get infected when you breathe in these droplets. It can also spread via close contact, like touching or shaking hands, kissing or by touching a surface that was contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before you wash your hands.

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