WHO expert clarifies remarks on virus spread

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FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK’d the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — A top World Health Organization expert has tried to clear up “misunderstandings” about comments she made that were widely understood to suggest that people without COVID-19 symptoms rarely transmit the coronavirus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the U.N. health agency’s technical lead on the virus pandemic, insisted Tuesday that she was referring only to a few studies, not a complete picture, in the comments she made Monday. .

Van Kerkhove’s remarks on Monday raised confusion and questions among outside experts and health officials who have recommended and in some places required that people wear masks to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

The “clarification” she provided during a WHO social-media chat showed many questions remain about whether infected people who don’t show symptoms of illness such as fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing can transmit the virus to others.

Van Kerkhove said: “What I was referring to yesterday were very few studies, some two or three studies that have been published, that actually try to follow asymptomatic cases.”

“That’s a very small subset of studies,” she continued. “I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s (a) misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. What I was referring to was a subset of studies.”

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

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