Are asymptomatic people safe? | India News

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Jun 9, 2020

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that people infected with the virus — SARS-Cov-2 — but not showing any symptoms, described as asymptomatic, may not pose a risk to others in transmitting the disease. This assertion is at variance with views of some researchers who opine that the spread of the pandemic will be difficult to control due to infections from asymptomatic people.
WHO says asymptomatic people pose less risk
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO”s technical lead on COVID-19 said at a press briefing on Monday 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 US 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% of spread, at most.
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. “We are constantly looking at this data and we”re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” she said. “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.
Pandemic is ‘worsening’
The WHO’s ‘good news’ comes even as it has expressed worry about the worsening situation of the pandemic, saying that a majority of the new cases — 75% — are now emanating from the Americas and South Asia (the region where India lies), especially as mass gatherings resume.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in countries where the situation was improving, “the biggest threat is now complacency,” adding that “most people globally are still susceptible to infection.”
“More than six months into the pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal,” he said.
Still, with regards to the spread of Covid-19, the WHO’s Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, head of emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said that it’s “rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual”.
CDC’s findings are different
While this doesn’t mean that the precautions being taken — social distancing and wearing face masks, apart from hand hygiene — are let go, the WHO says that governments around the world should focus on people showing symptoms, apart from contact tracing of anyone who might have come into contact with symptomatic infected people.
The WHO’s findings, however, appear to be at odds with the US Centers for Disease Control’s findings earlier, “that 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”.

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