In a bit of news that is a departure from what we have been hearing for months, a high-level official at the WHO has said that asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus are not the primary spreaders of it, according to their research.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news briefing at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, per CNBC. “It’s very rare.”
The CNBC story did say that Van Kerkhove acknowledged there has been some evidence that asymptomatic carriers have spread the virus within nursing homes and households. Nonetheless, she called that “rare” and advocated for contact tracing of symptomatic carriers: “What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases,” Van Kerkhove said. “If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts, we would drastically reduce [the outbreak]”.
Van Kerkhove called for more research and data to “truly” confirm the rarity of asymptomatic spread.
In early April, the CDC cited data from China that indicated that “preliminary evidence indicates the occurrence of presymptomatic transmission” in their assertion into the importance of social distancing.
If the WHO is right about this — and it bears mentioning the organization was initially incorrect in believing the data from China about cases and deaths were accurate — it would be a game changer in terms of how we are able to go about our lives until there’s a vaccine.