There have been 215 new cases of COVID-19 infection as of July 2, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH). Every day, we receive news of cases recovering from the virus, but the numbers still continue to rise in spite of that.
Is physical contact the only way of contracting the virus? Or is there another way?
These are what some public health researchers call the “silent spreaders”.
We wear our masks outside our homes and follow strict health guidelines, but we’ll never truly be sure who or what we’re supposed to avoid. These silent spreaders show little to no signs of being infected, making it more important for us to stay on guard 24/7.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a viral illness that is spread primarily from person to person. This can happen through the droplets released when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be transmitted through close contacts such as shaking hands or hugging.
Moreover, the virus leaves traces on various surfaces and objects such as doorknobs, gadgets, pens, and elevator buttons. If you touch surfaces that happen to be contaminated and then touch your face afterwards, you are more likely to get infected as well.
However, the presence of silent spreaders makes the virus more difficult to trace. As people begin to know the term “asymptomatic”, the anxiety of contracting the virus worsens.
Three Categories Of Silent Spreaders
Asymptomatic cases are those who don’t experience anything that signals an infection. They have no breathing issues, gastrointestinal issues, coughing, or any of the symptoms. Regardless of the 14-day incubation period, these cases still don’t develop symptoms.
Similar to asymptomatic cases, presymptomatic ones are those that have already been infected but are still not showing symptoms. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, when infected, it will take up to six days up to two weeks for symptoms to develop. Thus, presymptomatic cases begin as asymptomatic but later develop symptoms as the incubation period of two weeks passes.
3. Very Mildly Symptomatic
These are infected people who exhibit mild symptoms but still continue to stay in contact with other people. They may not be practising strict protocols because they have the impression that their mild symptoms are not indications of COVID-19. There are some cases that the infection isn’t severe for everyone but it’s exactly because of this that people misdiagnose themselves.
These distinctions are important as not every positive case develop symptoms. Categorising these types of silent spreaders helps with further understanding of how COVID-19 works and spreads.
Are Silent Spreaders Responsible For The Majority Of Transmissions?
Another similar question is, “How often is a virus asymptomatic?”
It’s difficult to conduct comprehensive studies on silent spreaders as they would require testing of large populations. Researchers would also need more data in order to reach a definitive conclusion on the transmissibility of COVID-19.
Although these types of transmissions have not been documented fully, there are reports of presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmissions in China and, possibly, in a nursing facility in Washington.
What we already know is that the evidence shows that the majority of transmissions come from symptomatic cases through close proximity or contact with others. Other evidence reported by other countries suggests that infected individuals through asymptomatic transmissions are less likely to transmit the virus.
Ultimately, to answer this question, we don’t have enough data yet to make a definite conclusion. However, what is clear is that the importance of wearing safety gear, PPEs, and following safety precautions is at an all-time high.
Protect Yourself And Your Loved Ones
Let’s reduce the risks of transmission by following some of these essential steps:
- Wash your hands with soap or hand sanitiser at all times
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a tissue
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
- Disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched frequently
- Socialise with colleagues and friends via digital means
- Avoid attending or planning events with large crowds
- Pay more care and attention to vulnerable groups such as seniors
- Always wear a mask when outside
- Stay at home as much as possible
In A Nutshell…
This pandemic is far from over. Until we find an effective treatment or vaccine to combat COVID-19, we are not exempted from getting ill. Additionally, there are silent spreaders everywhere who they themselves don’t know if they’re infected or not.
The best method we should continuously practice is to stay clean and be respectful of health policies. Let’s make it our responsibility to reduce everyone’s risk of COVID-19 infection.
Wash your hands, wear your mask, and keep social distancing.
How are you coping with the world’s “new normal”? Let us know in the comments!