The World Health Organization says it still believes the spread of the coronavirus from people without symptoms is “rare,” despite warnings from numerous experts worldwide that such transmission is more frequent and likely explains why the pandemic has been so hard to contain.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 said at a press briefing on Monday that many countries are reporting cases of spread from people who are asymptomatic, or those with no clinical symptoms. But when questioned in more detail about these cases, Van Kerkhove said many of them turn out to have mild disease, or unusual symptoms.
Although health officials in countries including Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that COVID-19 is spreading from people without symptoms, WHO has maintained that this type of spread is not a driver of the pandemic and is probably accounts for about 6% of spread, at most. Numerous studies have suggested that the virus is spreading from people without symptoms, but many of those are either anecdotal reports or based on modeling.
Van Kerkhove said that based on data from countries, when people with no symptoms of COVID-19 are tracked over a long period to see if they spread the disease, there are very few cases of spread.
“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” she said. “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.”