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Symptomatic COVID-19 cases: Majority, not minority

a covid-19 blood test tube with result of positive on yellow background the X has clipping path and can be removed. COVID-19 testing concept. Antibody tests concept. Image credit: 罗 宏志 / 123rf. COVID-19 cases now number at one million: concept. Testing illustration. Symptomatic COVID-19 illustration.
Image credit: 罗 宏志 / 123rf

Symptomatic COVID-19 cases account for the majority of infections with the novel coronavirus as opposed to the minority, research suggests.

Research published in PLOS Medicine indicates that asymptomatic infections with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or, simply, coronavirus are responsible for a minority of such infections when compared to symptomatic COVID-19 cases. As The Press Trust of India reports, “some people with the virus may experience severe infections resulting in viral pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, and death, while others remain completely asymptomatic or develop mild, nonspecific symptoms. 

“The researchers wanted to better understand the proportion of people who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and never develop any symptoms, as well as the proportion of people who are asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis but develop symptoms later. They systematically reviewed literature using a database of SARS-CoV-2 evidence between March and June, 2020. The researchers analysed 79 studies reporting empirical data on 6,616 people, 1,287 of whom were defined as asymptomatic, in order to determine the proportion of infected people who never developed symptoms.”

Earlier research indicated that, in India, COVID-19 cases presented either with mild nor no symptoms. “On the basis of worldwide analysis, eighty percent of coronavirus patients are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms,” joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal said in April. “Around fifteen percent turn into severe cases and five percent turn into critical cases.”

Conversely, the new research indicates that “most SARS-CoV-2 infections are not asymptomatic throughout the course of infection” according to Diana Buitrago-Garcia at the University of Bern. “The contribution of presymptomatic and asymptomatic infections to overall SARS-CoV-2 transmission means that combination prevention measures, with enhanced hand and respiratory hygiene, testing and tracing, and isolation strategies and social distancing, will continue to be needed.”

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