WHO: It's 'Very Rare' for Infected People Who Never Develop Symptoms To Spread COVID-19


CORRECTION, June 21, 2020: After this article was published, the WHO published a clarification of the meaning of the term “asymptomatic” as used by WHO official Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove during a June 8 news conference. The scientific definition of the term includes only those individuals who never display symptoms of the infection, not individuals who are infected but have not yet displayed symptoms. This is an important distinction in scientific jargon that Van Kerkhove failed to make clear during her presentation. Asymptomatic individuals, under this definition, may be responsible for up to 40 percent of virus transmissions, the WHO said.

Therefore, The Western Journal has changed the headline of this article and made several changes to the article itself in light of the WHO’s clarifying statement. In addition, the piece was labeled “news” and should have been labeled “commentary.” We have corrected that error as well.

At a briefing Monday in Geneva, a top World Health Organization official said the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from infected individuals who never develop symptoms of the illness is now considered “very rare.”

“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, told reporters in Geneva, according to CNBC.

“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.”

It was largely the fear of the contagion being spread by carriers who did not show any symptoms of the virus behind the lockdowns that stifled the American economy – and economies around the world.

Of course, even before this news conference, many had already raised the question of whether the lockdowns were necessary in the first place.

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At a March 19 news briefing at the White House, Dr. Deborah Birks, coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response task force, said the risk of transmission by unknowing carriers was simply too great to chance.

“Until you really understand how many people are asymptomatic and asymptomatically passing the virus on, we think it’s better for the entire American public to know that the risk of serious illness may be low, but they could be potentially spreading the virus to others,” Birks said, according to CNN. “That’s why we’re asking every American to take personal responsibility to prevent that spread.”

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CNBC report pointed out, “if asymptomatic spread proves to not be a main driver of coronavirus transmission, the policy implications could be tremendous. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published on April 1 cited the ‘potential for presymptomatic transmission’ as a reason for the importance of social distancing.”

And as numerous social media users pointed out after her news conference, that would mean an entire regimen of measures that have become part of the American landscape in a few short months could be open to new questions than those raised by a series of lockdown protests around the country.

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It’s important to note that the new WHO stance is not that asymptomatic transmission is impossible, or that it never happens.

However, the fact that it is now considered extremely rare will definitely play a role in decisions that are made across the country about reopening the economy.

The unexpected news from Friday, which showed the U.S. economy had gained 2.5 million jobs in May with an unemployment rate of about 13.3 percent was far better than most economists — and the mainstream media — had forecast.

If the news announced Monday is as big as it appears, that could just be the beginning of an economic comeback.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.