The World Health Organization said Monday the spread of coronavirus from asymptomatic patients is “very rare.”
While the virus can be spread from a person that has the virus and is not exhibiting any symptoms, WHO officials said that is not the main way the virus is being transmitted, CNBC reports.
The announcement is a deviation from early reports that indicated the virus could be easily spread from person-to-person, even if the person with COVID-19 has little to no symptoms.
“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 during a news briefing from the United Nations agency’s Geneva headquarters. “It’s very rare.”
She said the focus should be on identifying and isolating people with COVID-19 symptoms and then tracking down anyone who they have been in contact with so they can quarantine.
She added, more research and data are needed to “truly answer” whether the coronavirus can be widely spread through asymptomatic carriers.
“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 be paying more attention to symptomatic cases in order to stop the spread of the virus.
“What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases,” Van Kerkhove said.