(Natural News) The Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) has now infected more than 6.1 million people around the world and has caused over 370,000 deaths. But a top U.S. health official says even more people are already infected by COVID-19 – they just don’t know it.
The chilling statement comes from Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an interview with NPR in early April.
In the interview, he estimated that around 25 percent of people with COVID-19 do not show symptoms.
A report by Iceland’s Directorate of Health echoed Redfield’s statements. In the report, the researchers found that over 50 percent of those who tested positive for COVID-19 also did not show symptoms.
In fact, Natural News has covered a report by the CDC that says people infected with coronavirus can transmit it to others before the onset of symptoms, which the agency refers to as presymptomatic transmission. This report was backed up by a study from China that said a person infected with COVID-19 is most contagious around 18 hours before the initial onset of symptoms.
The study, published in Nature Medicine, also revealed that up to 44 percent of COVID-19 cases had been transmitted by people who are either asymptomatic or presymptomatic.
In addition, more recent studies have shown that a high percentage of COVID-19 patients are indeed asymptomatic.
“Of those of us that get symptomatic, it appears that we’re shedding significant virus in our oropharyngeal compartment [or the part of the throat behind the mouth], probably up to 48 hours before we show symptoms,” Redfield said.
“This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country because we have asymptomatic transmitters.”
Protecting against a strange virus
For Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, the idea of a virus latching onto an asymptomatic host isn’t that strange.
“It’s to the virus’ benefit because if you have seemingly healthy people moving around spreading the virus, that maximizes the transmission,” he added, speaking to Healthline. “Once you get sick, you tend to restrict your encounters with others.”
In addition to being asymptomatic, COVID-19 is also very contagious.
“The COVID-19 virus, it’s basic reproductive number appears to be about 4. What that means is that each person who is infected by the virus has the potential to spread it to four other persons in a susceptible population,” explained Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, an infectious disease expert at Meharry Medical College. By comparison, the measles virus – one of the most contagious viruses known to man – has a number between 12 and 18.
“If you do the math, the number of people infected would double every 6 days or so. But the actual data in some parts of the country is the virus is doubling every 3 days.”
Given how quickly the virus can spread, breaking the chain of transmission is important, Hildreth added, so people don’t inadvertently spread the virus.
The case for wearing masks
The CDC has shifted its position many times on wearing masks. From saying – back in February – that only sick people need masks, the agency now calls for people to wear face coverings when going to places where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
While the agency says that masks prevent a user from spreading the virus, Schaffner says that it still offers some form of protection.
“It actually works in both directions,” he added. “But we’re more sure that masks inhibit the spread out rather than the acquisition in.”
He also says that the rise in asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases is another reason to wear masks.
“It takes a little bit of time for those discussions to go on and for everyone to agree to ask the American public to do something that is culturally alien.”
Pandemic.news has more stories about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.