One in five people could be walking around with “silent” COVID-19, according to a study published in the journal Thorax, leading researchers to suggest these people may act as an important driver of viral spread in the community.
Lead author Sung-Han Kim, from the Department of Infectious Diseases at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, said the findings add further support to the use of face masks by the general public.
He also said the scope of testing for COVID-19 should be expanded to include asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings, such as nursing homes or healthcare facilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently U-turned on its advice around testing asymptomatic people and now stresses the need to test asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people, including close contacts of a person with confirmed COVID-19.
What exactly did the new study on silent COVID find?
The new study found those with asymptomatic COVID-19 cases appear to have similar viral loads to those with symptoms, echoing the results of past studies. Viral load refers to the total amount of virus a person has inside them. In theory: the higher the viral load, the more infectious someone is likely to be.
Researchers looked at a large cluster outbreak of COVID-19 in Daegu City, South Korea, early on in the pandemic. The close contacts of the cluster were traced and more than 3,000 cases of COVID-19 were uncovered, ranging from people having no symptoms at all to severe effects.
Those with mild or no symptoms were admitted to dedicated care facilities for isolation and monitoring. The 213 participants involved in this study had been admitted to one such facility.
People were classified as symptomless if they had none of the following: fever; chills; muscle pain (myalgia); fatigue; runny nose (rhinorrhea); blocked nose; loss of taste or smell; sore throat; swallowing difficulties; cough; phlegm production; coughing up blood; headache; dizziness; loss of appetite; nausea;...