Experts worried: How many people in China are free of virus-carrying symptoms?

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Experts worried: How many people in China are free of virus-carrying symptoms?

The existence of a significant but unknown number of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers in China has raised public concern that people may still transmit the virus because they do not know they have been infected.

While the virus is still haunting the world, China is preparing to declare victory and is already easing the restrictions on movement declared to prevent the spread of the virus. Borders of Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus, were opened on Wednesday after two months of blockade.

But he fears that lifting the restriction could put thousands of infected people into circulation.

Asymptomatic carriers of the virus pose a huge challenge to controlling the spread of the infectious disease because their detection is difficult, and thus preventing the transmission of the infection.

In China, the number of asymptomatic cases is secret and not included in the official data.

The South China Morning Post, citing unpublished official documents, recently reported that there are more than 40,000 of them.

China has reported more than 80,000 infected and nearly 3,300 dead.

Will they transmit the disease?

Asymptomatic cases are currently being detected worldwide by testing for the presence of coronavirus known contacts of diseased or infected persons.

China tests those who have been in contact with people with confirmed diagnoses, and if confirmed to be carriers of the virus, quarantines them whether or not they have Covida-19 symptoms.

“All asymptomatic patients were detected during contact testing,” Wu Zunyou, of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news conference on Tuesday.

“Will they be able to transmit the disease? They won't,” he claims.

However, not being included in the official data raises doubts about Beijing's commitment to transparent treatment, and some experts say it could create the wrong picture about the spread of the epidemic and whether or not the disease is under control.

Although no new infections have been recorded in official records since March 18, the city of Wuhan announced on March 20 that one newly diagnosed case was not included in official records because the 62-year-old patient had no symptoms.

Referring to hospital sources, the Kaiksin newspaper reported that this new case in Wuhan was a doctor infected by an asymptomatic patient.

China has announced that it will add asymptomatic people to the list of confirmed cases if they later show symptoms.

It remains unclear how many asymptomatic persons are not detected and consequently not isolated.

What about when bans are lifted?

Some experts warn that undetected asymptomatic carriers of the virus could be a source of new disease transmissions when movement restrictions are eased.

“It is of particular concern because many countries have yet to test large enough people in the community,” says Adam Kamradt-Scott, public health expert at Sydney University.

In addition, it is not yet clear to what extent asymptomatic people can infect others.

“We know this is possible, but we do not believe it is a significant route of transmission,” said Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization in early March.

New studies show that asymptomatic virus carriers may pose a risk.

An epidemic study on the Diamond Princess cruiser showed that 33 out of 104 infected passengers remained asymptomatic even after observing an average ten-day duration at a hospital in Japan.

While many seemed healthy throughout, several initially asymptomatic individuals quickly developed severe symptoms.

Every fifth carrier without symptoms?

Another study, published on March 23, looked at cases in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing. The study found that 18 percent of those infected were asymptomatic, meaning that almost every fifth virus carrier was symptom free.

A third study even found that the likelihood of transmitting the virus was higher when the symptoms of the disease were mildest.

The Yale School of Public Health has announced that the existence of asymptomatic patients means that screening methods at airports and other points of entry are not sufficient to prevent virus entry.

“The real picture will only be seen when we have a serological test available to show who has been infected,” said Ian Henderson, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Queensland.

Experts worried: How many people in China are free of virus-carrying symptoms?

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