WHO clarifies comments on asymptomatic spread of COVID-19

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) that asymptomatic people don’t spread COVID-19 has received a lot of attention and criticism. Now, the WHO is backtracking a bit, trying to clarify.​

Dr. David Aronoff, Director of the Infectious Disease Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, acknowledged recent claims left people unclear.​

“The World Health Organization’s statement was confusing,” said Dr. Aronoff, “And they’ve had to do some clarification.” ​

In fact, the Technical Lead for WHO has since sent out a series of tweets that read “transmission from asymptomatic individuals are difficult to conduct… asymptomatically-infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms.”​

“I think the point they are making is the following, the majority of people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus will develop symptoms. Those symptoms may be very mild,” explained Aronoff.

So mild, in some cases, symptoms may go unnoticed said Dr. Aronoff, “Everyone knows shortness of breath and cough and fever are the big alarm symptoms. Minor symptoms of COVID-19 can be fatigue, muscle ache, headache.”

Dr. Aronoff explained people should break down the WHO statement into three categories,
truly asymptomatic people vs. mildly-symptomatic, vs. pre-symptomatic.​

“For every person who develops symptoms, which we think is the majority of people who get infected, all of them have a period of time between when they get infected and when their symptoms begin. And, it’s during that pre-symptomatic window that shedding can begin and transmission can occur.”

This is why infectious disease doctors say preventive measures are key.​

“That’s why it’s so important, even if you feel well, to be participating in social distancing,” Aronoff said, “Wearing a cloth mask when you’re around people you don’t live with and are in close proximity, and paying attention to good hand hygiene and surface disinfection.”

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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