Does the coronavirus spread through 'asymptomatic' people or not?
A major concern about the coronavirus was that it could be easily spread from person-to-person by carriers who did not know they were contagious because they had no known symptoms of the disease. These "asymptomatic" carriers could still transmit it to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, officials at WHO and the CDC said as the pandemic worsened worldwide.
As a result of this, governments and public health agencies worldwide recommended extensive social distancing measures to prevent further spread of the virus.
However, WHO officials said Monday that asymptomatic people were not fueling the spread of the coronavirus. That statement seemed to counter the consensus among infectious disease researchers who said the virus might be hard to defeat because infected people who showed no symptoms would be spreading it to others.
On Tuesday, WHO retracted the statement after it faced significant criticism from epidemiologists.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, attempted to clarify the organization's new position by saying that asymptomatic spread is a “really complex question” and much remains unknown.
“We don’t actually have that answer yet,” she said.