Newly released research shows that up to 80% of COVID-19 Infections are asymptomatic. Scientists who studied passengers aboard a cruise ship found that eight out of ten people had no COVID-19 symptoms, despite testing positive.
We know that people can be asymptomatic, that’s info is not new. But what’s surprising about this study is the number of people that caught the virus and didn’t even know they had it.
Now, this particular cruise was a 21-day expedition. It began in Argentina and the plan was to sail to the Antarctic. But about 8 days in, a passenger became ill with a fever. And despite a ship-wide lockdown, others ended up getting sick.
So the ship docked in Uruguay and 8 people with COVID-19 were evacuated to a local hospital. And that’s when everyone on board was tested. Now, there were a total of 217 passengers. And 128 of them tested positive for the virus. And of those who tested positive, only 24 had symptoms. Which means that 104 passengers - or 81% - did not have symptoms prior to testing.
Everyone on board was screened for COVID-19 symptoms. They had their temperatures taken and if you had recently traveled in China or South Korea, you were not allowed on.
Now that may seem a bit insignificant but this cruise took place in mid-March, back before the coronavirus had traveled around the world. And as for preventative measures, once the first person became sick, everyone was given surgical masks and passengers were confirmed to their cabins. And anyone that came into contact with sick patients wore personal protective equipment.
But despite these preventative measures, the virus was still able to quickly and stealthily spread itself aboard the ship.
It is possible that a higher number of Americans have been infected than we realize. But what this research really shows, is how serious everyone needs to take the coronavirus.
I know many folks are tired of staying home. I hear this from some of my patients and friends as well. Many of you want the bars, and restaurants and hair salons to open back up. I get that. But we have to face reality, and we have to embrace our new normal.
If 80% of infected people don’t show symptoms and don’t know they’re actually carrying the virus, think of the impact it can have on our society.
So I can’t overstate how important it is to continue to practice social distancing. Our case numbers are down, let’s keep them down by staying vigilant when it comes to the preventative measures that we’ve been doing.
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