One perplexing thing about COVID-19 is that it has a vast range of symptoms. The virus has been deadly for thousands of people around the world, but for several individuals, the illness is practically unnoticeable.
A recent study, however, reveals that stealth transmission has contributed to the rapid rise of cases in China.
“There are some people who are truly infected, but they don’t get sick”, Stephen Gluckman, an infectious diseases physician at Penn Medicine and the medical director of Penn Global Medicine, noted.
Being infected but showing no symptoms is not unique to COVID-19. Gluckman explains that in sickness, there is often a spectrum from very sick to moderately sick to not ill at all. At this time, however, there is limited information about asymptomatic carriers.
There are no precise data on how many people are asymptomatic carriers of the disease, nor is it clear how they are contributing to the spread of the pandemic. In a recent study, stealth transmission or transmissions that are contributed significantly by people who have mild or non-discrete symptoms is said to have contributed to the rapid rise of cases in China.
According to Nasia Safdar, medical director of Infection Control and Prevention at the University of Wisconsin Health in Madison, COVID-19 symptoms in many cases may be so mild that one may never realize that they are infected.
A soft case may be a low-grade fever, a runny nose that you may ignore because it is allergy season. While these cases may be labeled as infected but asymptomatic, these are the people who can infect others that they get sick enough to reach hospitals.
Kirsten Hokeness, professor and chair of the Department of Science and Technology at Bryant University, pointed out that in a new study in Germany, it revealed that individuals could spread the virus immediately after they have been infected.
After infection, the virus can also potentially spread for a prolonged period. The said study was able to cultivate virus days one to five after the onset of symptoms, noting that this is the time when the virus was most infectious.
CDC, on the other, had believed that people could shed the virus from two to 14 days after the exposure and after their symptoms clear. Patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 are asked to remain in isolation for three days after they have recovered.
Children who are often asymptomatic are also carriers and can pose a risk to those closest to them.
Another concern about stealth transmission is the lack of test availability. The lack of test availability could mean that there are far more people infected or have been infected than what is confirmed in many countries.
Many people who experience mild cases or are asymptomatic may not be tested and would just self-isolate. Everyone, therefore, should be suspected of infection.
These are the reasons why practicing social distancing is essential. Such a measure is vital for COVID-19 because there is no natural immunity in the population, and no vaccine exists. Social distancing creates a barrier and protects vulnerable people in the community.
Everyone should be suspected of infection. Again, it is vital to wash hands, sanitize in the absence of soap and water, avoid large gatherings, and keep as isolated as you can, advised Hokeness.