No fever, no problem?
‘From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. It’s very rare.’
That’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, seemingly contradicting what many have been led to believe about the transmission of the coronavirus.
In other words, while it still happens in some cases, patients without symptoms aren’t generally the ones driving the spread. This flies in the face of previous research warning the disease could be difficult to contain because of asymptomatic infections.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” Van Kerkhove said at a briefing Monday from the U.N.’s headquarters. “They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward.”
Watch the clip, courtesy of CNBC:
Back in April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on the “potential for presymptomatic transmission” as a reason for maintaining social-distancing restrictions.
“To control the pandemic, it might not be enough for only persons with symptoms to limit their contact with others because persons without symptoms might transmit infection,” the CDC found.
Ashish Jha, incoming dean at the Brown School of Public Health, addressed some of the questions that bubbled up after the WHO’s latest findings were announced, and questioned whether WHO was referring to truly asymptomatic cases (those who have the disease but never develop symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (those who have the virus before they start showing symptoms).
Jha added: “@WHO communication here not stellar. If folks without symptoms truly ’very rarely’ spread virus, would be huge. But such a statement by @WHO should be accompanied by data. Asymptomatic spread is Achille’s heal of this outbreak. Would love to be wrong. Need to see data.”
Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert at Baylor University, also entered the conversation:
The takeaway: Clearly, there are still a lot of unknowns about the cororonavirus.