Here's What You Need To Know About 'Silent' Covid - Rugby and Daventry Radio Station Midlands UK            

Here’s What You Need To Know About ‘Silent’ Covid

Written by on September 23, 2020

Article Published on Wednesday September 23, 2020 12:01 AM by

Here’s What You Need To Know About ‘Silent’ Covid

One in five people could be walking around with ‘silent’ Covid-19, a study published in the journal Thorax suggests, leading researchers to suggest these people may act as an important driver of viral spread in the community.

Lead author Professor Sung-Han Kim, from the Department of Infectious Diseases at Asan Medical Center, Seoul, 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. In the UK, asymptomatic people are not currently tested for Covid-19, however care home residents and staff members are able to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US 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.

What did the new study on silent Covid find?

The new study found those with asymptomatic Covid 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; vomiting, abdominal pain; and diarrhoea.

In 213 patients with the virus, 41 (19%) remained asymptomatic. Of them, 39 (95%) underwent follow-up testing after an average of 13 days, while in 172 patients with mild symptoms, 144 (84%) underwent follow-up testing.

The follow-up testing is important as it showed those with silent Covid didn’t then develop symptoms, which would’ve meant they were pre-symptomatic. 

A large proportion of mildly symptomatic patients with Covid-19 and asymptomatic individuals showed persistent positive upper respiratory RT-PCR results at follow-up. Asymptomatic individuals and symptomatic patients also had very similar viral loads.

Researchers said further studies are needed to clarify whether the persistence of viral DNA in people without any symptoms warrants precautionary quarantine measures. They added that most of the participants were in their 20s and 30s, so the findings might not apply to other age groups.

Nevertheless, they pointed out: “Considering that most asymptomatic individuals with Covid-19 are likely to go unnoticed by healthcare workers and continue to reside within communities, such individuals may act as an essential driving force for the community spread of Covid-19 and the ongoing pandemic state.”

So, what does this mean?

Until we know how long, and to what extent, asymptomatic people might be infectious, testing should be extended to certain groups as a precautionary measure, the researchers recommended.

While we don’t know exactly how many people tend to be asymptomatic, we do know that the number could range from 20-50%. It could be even higher.

A study from Italy published at the end of June found that of residents who tested positive for Covid-19 in the municipality of Vo’, a small town near Padua, 42% were asymptomatic. Another study of 9,000 people selected to take a coronavirus test in Iceland found 50% of them tested positive for Covid-19, but didn’t have any symptoms.

While it’s good news that some people aren’t getting sick from coronavirus, this presents a problem if those people are still going to the shops and to work, because they think they’re fine, but are inadvertently spreading it around.

Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist and author of Immunity: The Science of Staying Well, previously told HuffPost UK asymptomatic carriers are “one of the biggest challenges” with easing lockdown restrictions.

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Here’s What You Need To Know About ‘Silent’ Covid
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