Updated: June 09, 2020
The World Health Organization clarifies its stance of asymptomatic COVID-19 spreaders. TL;DR: “current estimates indicated anywhere between 6 and 41 percent of the population could have COVID-19 without knowing it, and those people could in turn pass the virus on to others.” Read more and what preventive strategies can be done to minimize COVID-19 spread in our Recommendations for Industry section, today.
Recommendations for Industry
WHO Moves to Clarify Statements on Asymptomatic Spread.
Following skepticism from global medical and public health experts (including TAG) on an official’s statements on the “rarity” of the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization sought to clarify the comments today, stating that “it is a ‘really complex question’ and much is still unknown”; and that “current estimates indicated anywhere between 6 and 41 percent of the population could have COVID-19 without knowing it, and those people could, in turn, pass the virus on to others.”
Following comments yesterday from WHO official Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, TAG questioned the specific science and data supporting WHO’s initial statement indicating that asymptomatic transmission was “very rare,” as the WHO provided no public data or evidence. A recent study published in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases states, “Recent epidemiologic, virologic, and modeling reports support the possibility of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission from persons who are presymptomatic (SARS-CoV-2 detected before symptom onset) or asymptomatic (SARS-CoV-2 detected but symptoms never develop).”
Because the spread of COVID-19 by people who do not have symptoms is still believed to be an essential mode of transmission that can be controlled using the preventive approaches, TAG recommends continuing all the COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls:
On June 5th, the WHO updated its guidance for the use of face masks as one measure to reduce the risk of asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission. In recommending cloth face coverings, particularly where social distancing is difficult to maintain, CDC states, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (‘asymptomatic’) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (‘presymptomatic’) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.”
For questions on continuing controls and working toward recovery and the New Normal, contact TAG’s food safety and public health experts.
As of June 09, 2020 (13:39 ET), there are over 7,164,000 cases (>407,000 deaths) worldwide.
Due to the increasing number of cases in the United States, TAG will move from reporting counts per country to focus on the United States, please see here for the data. For further information regarding worldwide numbers, please refer to John Hopkin University’s aggregate map.
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