It has been over half a year since the novel coronavirus brought the entire world to a screeching halt. And while many kept predicting (mostly hoping) that the virus will go away after a certain amount of time, with certain atmospheric conditions, or some medicine combinations, the virus still persists. In fact, the pandemic seems to have only worsened with a constant increase in the highest daily tally of new infections. However, some hope can be derived from a significant new claim by WHO official epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
In a recent briefing in Geneva where the everyday increasing tally of COVID-19 cases was being discussed, Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said that patients with COVID-19 might not infect others in case they happen to be asymptomatic.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” she shared during the briefing and added, “It’s very rare.”
Van Kerkhove further shared that this finding has been based on asymptomatic cases that were identified through contact tracing of known patients and the lack of onward transmission by these asymptomatic patients. These observations on asymptomatic patients are based on data from countries that have been carrying out detailed contact tracing. “Much of that has been published in the literature yet,” Kerkhove said as she added that the data is being reviewed by the agency to confirm the findings. Just to be clear, what she posits is that while the asymptomatic transmission is happening, it's very low in comparison to the carriers who show clear symptoms.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” Van Kerkhove said. “They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward," she shared to support her claim.
“What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases. If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts, we would drastically reduce outbreak," Kerkhove added.
Preliminary studies on the novel coronavirus suggested that the virus could spread from person to person contact irrespective of the fact if the infected carrier was asymptomatic or not. In fact, the entire idea of social distancing for noninfected people was based on studies that suggested an asymptomatic transmission of the virus. Van Kerkhove's claim, if it proves to be true, can entirely change how the disease is being approached in a number of countries where the total number of asymptomatic cases remains relatively high. It would also change the mitigation policies and how they are being implemented right now.
Well, right now we'll cling to hope from wherever it comes and here's hoping Van Kerkhove's claims prove to be true brings significant progress in our fight against the novel coronavirus.