COVID-19: Twitter backlash for WHO's confusing comment

COVID-19: Twitter backlash for WHO's confusing comment

The uncertainty surrounding the virus became apparent Tuesday, when Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, had to clarify her statements on asymptomatic spreading.

Van Kerkhove said that her previous comment had been misunderstood, since she was referring only to certain studies on the spread of COVID-19, involving contact tracing. what she meant to convey is that she has not seen evidence indicating that transmission from asymptomatic individuals is widespread.

Some estimates suggest anywhere between six and 41 per cent of the population may be infected but not have symptoms, she added.

The question hinges on whether people are asymptomatic - that is, infected but without ever exhibiting symptoms - and presymptomatic, which applies to people who have been infected and have not yet manifested illness.

Van Kerkhove said they don't know yet how numerous population are asymptomatic - could be between 6% and 41% of cases according to estimates. Asymptomatic people can transmit the virus for a long time, perhaps longer than 2 weeks, according to the study. Her comment that asymptomatic transmission was "very rare" was misunderstood and wasn't a global generalisation, she said - and based her comment on data that isn't published yet and what World Health Organization receives from their member states.

Still, she did her best to try to, er, clarify what she said one day earlier, according to CNN.

"It demonstrates how incredibly important it is to take great care in how you're communicating science that is hyper-relevant to the public right now", Caulfield said, adding we still don't have a clear picture from the research community on how much asymptomatic spread is actually occurring.

Calling the controversy "a misunderstanding", van Kerkhove said that during the news conference Monday, she was trying to respond to a journalist's question when she said asymptomatic transmission was "very rare".

Van Kerkhove walked back those comments Tuesday, calling asymptomatic spread a "really complex question" that requires additional research to fully understand.

Kerkhove did not provide numbers or figures about the studies she based her statement on. "What I was referring to was a subset of studies".

Under the terms of the contact-tracing schemes now operational across the United Kingdom, someone who passed on the infection while pre-symptomatic could still have their contacts traced once they developed symptoms.

A further 55 people died after testing positive with the virus as of 5PM on Sunday, taking the total to 40,597. Several states in the US, including MA, similarly shut down public life to stem the spread of the coronavirus, leading to the closure of K-12 schools, higher education institutions and the cancellation of major public events such as the Boston Marathon and the Boston Pops July 4 concert. "The WHO made a surprising announcement that asymptomatic people with Covid rarely spread it. Of note, wearing a homemade medical mask for asymptomatic individuals in communities with community transmission is similar in principle to an individual coughing or sneezing into their inner elbow". You should get a test if you don't feel well, socially distance from others, wash your hands often, and, perhaps most importantly, wear a mask when you can't socially distance.

The WHO's Executive Director of Health Emergencies Mike Ryan, who was also on the livestream on Tuesday, acknowledged that asymptomatic spread of the CCP virus still exists.

It's complicated, especially since the virus was only identified in late December. This statement caused a lot of confusion, as all of the lockdown measures that were put into place were specifically created to stop asymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19.

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