The World Health Organization today faced confusion over comments by an official on Monday suggesting the spread of Covid-19 by asymptomatic people. “It seems rare.”
Maria Van Kerhoff, the WHO’s technical director for the corona response and head of the emerging disease and zoonosis, said yesterday that “it still seems rare for a asymptomatic person to actually transmit a secondary person.”
But then today, during the live E&A, he clarified that “this is an unknown major.”
“We know that some people who are not symptomatic or who have no symptoms can transmit the virus – so what we need to better understand is how many people in the population have no symptoms,” said Van Kerkhove.
“What I mentioned yesterday in the press conference was very few studies that tried to look at asymptomatic cases over time. … And that’s a very small subset of studies, and so I answered a question in the press conference.” “Because this is a big unknown, because there are so many unknowns around it, some groups of models have tried to estimate what percentage of asymptomatic people can transmit it,” said Van Kerhoov.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Emergency Health Program, also said during the live E&A that there is still much to learn about the possible asymptomatic spread of coronavirus.
“Any proportion of the disease transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, as Maria said, is unknown,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot to be said about this, there’s a lot of unknown.”
Ryan added that the virus, a pathogen found in the upper respiratory tract, is transmitted through droplets – such as when someone coughs or sneezes, but some research also shows that it can be spread through speech.
Earlier on Monday, Van Kerkhove said that what appears to be Covid-19 asymptomatic cases often proves to be mild cases.
“When we really go back and say how many of them were really asymptomatic, we find that a lot of people have a really mild illness,” Van Kerkhove said Monday.
I remember: A truly asymptomatic person has no symptoms and no symptoms of Covid-19. While, the term paucisymptomatic refers to the existence of atypical or very mild symptoms and the pre-symptomatic refers to the initial stages of a disease, before the symptoms develop.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission occurs before people feel sick.