People who have the coronavirus but don’t display symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the pandemic, World Health Organization officials said Monday.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news briefing in Geneva, CNBC reported.
“It’s very rare.”
Health officials warned early on that asymptomatic carriers could be fueling the spread by stealth –but Van Kerkhove said that while asymptomatic spread can occur, it is not the main way the virus was being transmitted.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” she said.
“They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare,” she said.
Governments should instead focus their efforts on detecting and isolating infected people with symptoms — then tracking anyone who might have come into contact with them, she said.
“What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases,” Van Kerkhove said.
She added that the agency is still trying to get “more information” from different countries to “truly answer” whether the virus can spread widely through asymptomatic carriers.
“If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts … it would be a drastic reduction in transmission,” she said.