While Asymptomatic Spread of Coronavirus Can Happen, the WHO Now Says It's "Very Rare"

Jenny Sugar
Young people meet in quarantine outside on the city street wearing face protective mask to prevent Coronavirus and anti-smog

Previous concerns that asymptomatic coronavirus patients could spread the disease is partly the reasoning the CDC recommended social distancing. While some people with COVID-19 will experience a high fever, cough, and shortness of breath, David Cutler, MD, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told POPSUGAR in a previous interview that many people who are infected experience no symptoms at all, and could unknowingly be spreading the virus.

But on June 8, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that while asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus, they're not the main ones transmitting the virus. American infectious disease epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, who's head of WHO's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news briefing from the United Nations agency's Geneva headquarters, according to CNBC.com, "From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. It's very rare."

Dr. Van Kerkhove advised that government responses should focus on detecting and isolating infected people who actually have symptoms, and track anyone who might have come into contact with those individuals. "We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They're following asymptomatic cases. They're following contacts. And they're not finding secondary transmission onward. It's very rare," she said.

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If it's proven that asymptomatic spread isn't what's mostly spreading the coronavirus, it could greatly affect policy, such as social distancing regulations.

While asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread of the virus is still happening, Dr.Van Kerkhove said what we really want to focus on is following the cases of people who exhibit symptoms. She added that if we actually followed and isolated all the symptomatic cases, followed the people they came in contact with and quarantined them, we would "drastically reduce" the outbreak.