The World Health Organization (WHO) has made a dramatic U-Turn on its claims that it is rare for asymptomatic Coronavirus patients to spread the virus after Harvard University scientists criticized the agency for creating confusion.
During a news conference on Monday, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit said the transmission of Coronavirus by an asymptomatic patient is now very rare.
In her words, she said: “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It is very rare — and much of that is not published in the literature,” she said.
“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.”
Van Kerkhove went on to describe how the novel coronavirus spreads through droplets, which can be released when someone coughs or sneezes.
“It passes from an individual through infectious droplets. If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those cases, we would drastically reduce — I would love to be able to give a proportion of how much transmission we would actually stop — but it would be a drastic reduction in transmission,” she said.
But researchers from Harvard say that a multitude of evidence suggests those without symptoms can, and easily do, spread coronavirus.
According to the group, the WHO’s comment was based on ‘evidence from member states’ that has not yet been shared with the scientific community.
‘Obviously the issue about whether or not can spread symptoms is critical to controlling this,’ Dr Ashish K Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told DailyMail.com.
‘It’s been the Achilles heel of this outbreak. The threat of asymptomatic spread, it’s real and substantial.’
Jha said that about one in five people who contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, never develop symptoms.
‘They feel fine throughout the disease course. That’s where we think are right now,’ he said.
‘I would say there’s good evidence that people who are infected, who have no symptoms and feel fine, can and do spread the infection.’
The WHO later called Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove’s statement a ‘misunderstanding,’ and admitted that people with no symptoms do, in fact, spread the disease.