As the U.S. combats the coronavirus pandemic and looks to prepare for future waves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started conducting preliminary studies to find out how many Americans have been infected with the virus, though the World Health Organization quickly shot down any hope the studies could bring.
The studies will first look at blood samples from people in some of the COVID-19 hot spots, like New York, before using samples from across the country. The final test will focus on health care workers to see how the virus spread among them.
“We’re just starting to do testing and we’ll report out on these very quickly,” Bresee said at a media briefing earlier this month.
“We think the serum studies will be very important to understand what the true amount of infection is out in the community.”
The tests — known as sero-surveys — will determine how many people have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but had mild or no symptoms.
Knowing how many mild or asymptomatic cases are in the country will help authorities prepare for future responses to COVID-19, but the WHO says that the tests probably won’t be as helpful as people hope.
8) Getting a sense of how many mild and asymptomatic cases there are helps plan for future responses to #Covid19. If a high %people were likely infected when 🦠 moved through during its first wave, response to reappearance later might be tailored to protect only high-risk people
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 5, 2020
The WHO issues a warning Friday that said there isn’t any evidence the serological tests will determine if a person is immune to or no longer runs the risk of being reinfected by the coronavirus, CNBC reported.
“These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of serology presence, that level of antibodies, but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies” is immune, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said.
As of Saturday morning, there were nearly 2.3 million cases of coronavirus worldwide and more than 715,000 cases in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
Infectious disease experts also predict the total number of cases is most likely higher, as many people are either asymptomatic or have symptoms but were not tested.
Kerkhove said that although many countries suggest the new antibody tests will be able to “capture what they think will be a measure of immunity,” there currently is “no evidence” that the use of a serological test will be able to show that.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said that scientists also don’t know how long the antibodies might protect a person from being reinfected.
“Nobody is sure whether someone with antibodies is fully protected against having the disease or being exposed again,” he said.
WHO officials said Monday that not all patients who recover from the coronavirus will be able to fight a second infection, according to CNBC.
“With regards to recovery and then reinfection, I believe we do not have the answers to that,” Ryan said. “That is an unknown.”
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