Nobody knows why asymptomatic people who have COVID-19 exhibit no symptoms.
Are they the lucky ones?
Far from it. It’s the worst kind.
Now, of course not having the symptoms may mean you’re not infected. But asymptomatic people carry the virus and believe they are OK while COVID-19 wreaks havoc with their internal organs, in the same way it affects other coronavirus carriers.
They don’t run a fever. They don’t cough or feel short of breath, and they don’t get the strange range of symptoms such as frostbite-like bumps on the skin, diarrhea, or the loss of smell or taste.
“It’s a very big portion of people, and although they are silent without symptoms, internally, they are taking hits in there inside their body so they don’t even know it,” says Eric Topol, MD, the founder and director of the Scripps Translational Research Institute in La Jolla, CA.
Yet they are clueless. Not only that. They are infecting others around them thinking it’s safe to do so.
Here’s what you should know.
Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic
Someone who is asymptomatic has the infection but exhibits no symptoms and will not develop them later.
Someone who is pre-symptomatic has the infection but don’t have any symptoms until the incubation period of the virus begins to show teeth.
Both groups can spread the infection, but when they don’t know they’re infected, it spreads faster. Individuals who are pre-symptomatic are infectious for two to three days before having symptoms.
The number of asymptomatic infections ranges from 15 to 40% of total infections. As for the symptoms, there is a wide range, where some are mild like a sore throat or a runny nose and others are devastating, starting with shortness of breath, leading to pneumonia and death.
A new study provides the first scientific evidence of asymptomatic transmission of the pathogen.
For the retrospective study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed samples from 303 patients between the ages of 22 and 36 who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Of the 303 patients, 110 were asymptomatic before they began self-isolating. 19%, turned out to be pre-symptomatic and developed symptoms of COVID-19 between 13 and 20 days after beginning isolation.
The remaining 89 of the 110 asymptomatic patients did not develop symptoms over the course of a 20- to 26-day follow-up timeframe, according to the researchers. However, they found that the asymptomatic patients had as large of a viral load in their noses, throats, and lungs as patients who were infected with the coronavirus and developed symptoms of COVID-19.
Further, the researchers found that asymptomatic patients carried the virus nearly as long as symptomatic patients.
It’s one reason the director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, Alina Alonso, MD, has cautioned county officials to be careful when reopening schools.