What you should know about COVID asymptomatic transfer


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp clarified asymptomatic people can transmit COVID-19 during an appearance Monday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Dr. Harp said confusion about this arose when the person in charge of COVID-19 epidemiology at the World Health Organization stated that asymptomatic transmission does not seem to occur often, but the next day stated that it could occur in up to 40% of cases. “Researchers around the world are just beginning to collect information about asymptomatic transmission from many different populations in many different situations, leading to varying results. Now they will start figuring out how all this information fits together.”

The WHO official was talking about asymptomatic transmission. An asymptomatic person is a person who is infected but show no symptoms. This can happen in up to 60% of cases in young healthy groups. Based on what we know now somewhere between 2% and 40% of infected people who are asymptomatic throughout their COVID-19 illness are able to transmit the virus.

Dr. Harp said this number is probably different in presymptomatic people. Presymptomatic means people who are infected and will eventually have symptoms. They so far appear to be very contagious for one to two days before the symptoms develop and are contagious while they have symptoms. People with symptoms are likely more contagious than people without symptoms.

“We know that many people who are infected are able to transmit the disease even though they don’t have symptoms and may never develop symptoms,” said Dr. Harp. “Therefore it makes sense to treat everyone as if they may be infectious and to protect others who are around them from potential transmission of the disease. The best way to do this is by wearing a mask. Masks protect others from people who are infectious. By wearing a mask I prevent others from getting an infection I may have but not know I have.”

As reopening continues, many are asking when will we be able to ditch our masks. Dr. Harp’s answer? “When either the transmission rate drops enough or immunity is more prevalent, either through people having had the illness or having been vaccinated against it. The increases in COVID-19 that we are seeing in various area in the U.S. – places like California, may to be related to taking them off too soon. New York’s ongoing decline is in part related to our masking policy and our willingness to wearing them. So wear them proudly!”

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