Asymptomatic spread of COVID-19

It has been more than six months since the pandemic started in Wuhan, China. Many changes have been made in our lifestyles and many places are under lock down. Day by day, new information comes up about the Coronavirus. The latest case is of how much can asymptomatic people spread the virus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO official said that “the actual rates of asymptomatic transmission aren’t yet known.”

Although there has been confusion about the term “asymptomatic” as regards to COVID-19, two types of infected individuals have been identified; asymptomatic and presymptomatic.

Asymptomatic people actually have the virus but don’t at all show any symptoms. Researchers say that up to 80% of people with COVID-19 don’t show any sign and symptom of the disease. On the other hand, presymptomatic individuals can shed the virus before they become sick.

A research team at the Scripps Research Institute led by its founder, Eric Topol published their findings that asymptomatic individuals can play a greater role in the spread of the virus.

“The silent spread of the virus makes it all the more challenging to control,” said Eric Topol. “Our review really highlights the importance of testing. It’s clear that with such a high asymptomatic rate, we need to cast a very wide net, otherwise the virus will continue to evade us.”

When a person shows the signs and symptoms of a disease one can seek medical attention. But in the case where there are no symptoms, there are greater chances of the spread of the disease.

In an interview with Dr William Schaffner from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he said “It’s to the virus’ benefit because if you have seemingly healthy people moving around spreading the virus, that maximizes the transmission. Once you get sick, you tend to restrict your encounters with others.”

As microorganisms are extremely quick to evolve, the initial rule of patients wearing face masks wasn’t as enough as we thought. Now, the WHO has recommended it’s compulsory to wear a face mask in public. In addition, guidelines have been provided for public gathering. Many businesses have been shut down especially in places where many people are accommodated such as malls and movie theaters.

Nowadays many people are also showing videos that face masks can be made locally or even at home. Though they aren’t medically approved, being made from clothes, Dr Schaffner recommends it.

“It actually works in both ways,” he said. “But we’re more sure that masks inhibit the spread out rather than the acquisition in.”

This also means that isolating patients with symptoms of COVID-19 isn’t enough. Whether people show the symptoms or not, it has become more essential to wear masks and keep social distancing. This also means that it has become important that more people are tested for the virus.

Mike Ryan, the head of WHO’s emergencies program had commented in a press conference that “We won’t stop all transmission, but what we do is, we suppress transmission.”

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