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People with ‘silent’ Covid-19 may have key role in spread

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People with ‘silent’ or asymptomatic Covid-19 infection have as much coronavirus in their noses and throats as those with symptoms, warn researchers.

The study, published in the journal Thorax, revealed that these ‘silent’ people may have a key role in driving the spread of Covid-19.

For the findings, the researchers from Asan Medical Centre in South Korea, compared the viral load of 213 people, all of whom had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but not all of whom had symptoms of Covid-19 infection.

People infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but who don’t have symptoms, still carry potentially transmissible virus, known as the viral load.

Following a large cluster outbreak of Covid-19 in Daegu City, South Korea, early on in the pandemic, the close contacts of this cluster (a religious group) were traced.

This uncovered more than 3,000 cases of Covid-19, ranging in symptom severity from none to severe.

Those with mild or no symptoms were admitted to dedicated care facilities for isolation and monitoring.

The 213 participants in this study had been admitted to one such facility.

They were classified as symptomless if they had none of the following: fever, chill, muscle pain, fatigue, runny nose, blocked nose, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, cough, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, etc.

Before the isolation period — an average of six days from the first swab test — around a fifth (19 per cent) people didn’t develop any symptoms.

Of the remaining 172 (81 per cent) with mild symptoms, 144 were retested, adding up to a total of 183 who were included in the final analysis.

Over half of those without symptoms (54 per cent) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, as did nearly two thirds of those with mild symptoms (64 per cent).

There was no significant difference in the viral load between the two groups.

“Our data adds further support to the general public use of face masks, regardless of the presence of symptoms,” said study lead author Sung-Han Kim.

The researchers noted that most of the participants were also in their 20s and 30s so the findings might not apply to other age groups.

Further studies are needed to clarify whether the persistence of viral DNA in people without any symptoms warrants precautionary quarantine measures, they stressed.

Corona

COVID-19 cases in US may double before Joe Biden takes office

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Soon after the US President-elect Joe Biden signalled that fighting the Covid-19 pandemic will be an immediate priority for his administration, a new study revealed that coronavirus cases in the country are likely to double before he takes office.

According to the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, Inauguration Day is still two months away and the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases are likely to increase to 20 million by the end of January, nearly doubling the current level of 12.3 million cases.

“One of the key reasons for the increased accuracy of our model over other Covid-19 forecasts is that this model accounts for the fact that people live in interconnected social networks rather than interacting mostly with random groups of strangers,” said study author Raphael Thomadsen from Washington University in the US.

“This allows the model to forecast that growth will not continue at exponential rates for long periods of time, as classic Covid-19 forecasts predict,” Thomadsen added.

An interactive online version of the model also allows users to observe the impact different levels of social distancing will have on the spread of Covid-19.

The current social distancing reflects an approximate 60 per cent return to normalcy, as compared with the level of social distancing before the pandemic.

“If we continue, as a nation, at the current level of social distancing, the model forecasts that we are likely to reach 20 million cases before the end of January 2021,” the authors wrote.

The upcoming holiday season will present a great deal of uncertainty to the outlook of the pandemic as people travel more at the end of the year.

“This will likely make our forecast an optimistic one,” said Meng Liu, assistant professor of marketing and study co-author.

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