New study finds more than half of COVID transmission comes from asymptomatic people

Covid testing
Posted at 2:19 PM, Jan 14, 2021

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb across the country and here in the Tampa Bay area. New research shows more than half of the transmission comes from people who are asymptomatic.

“That really sort of ties into the fact that this is a really insidious virus and something that’s going to be really hard for us to control,” said USF Health’s Dr. Thomas Unnasch.

A study looked at what proportion of COVID-19 spread is associated with transmission from people with no symptoms. CDC researchers found nearly 60 percent of all transmission came from asymptomatic spread, comprising 35 percent from people who are presymptomatic or are infectious before developing symptoms, and 24 percent from people who never develop symptoms.

The findings in the study suggest identifying and isolating those with COVID-19 symptoms alone won’t control the ongoing spread.

“You could be walking around spreading this to somebody, and you may be asymptomatic, but that person you give that virus to could end up dead,” said Dr. Unnasch. “For the good of everybody around you, for your family, for your friends, for your community, everybody has to act like they are infectious.”

Dr. Unnasch stressed the need for people to be extra careful no matter how you feel.

“When you go to the grocery store, wear the mask, and don’t get close to that poor 70-year-old grandmother that’s standing there at the fish counter because you might give it to her, and she might die, and you really don’t want to kill that poor nice lady at the fish counter right? So take precautions, please.”

Unnasch reminds us that those precautions include wearing masks and social distancing.

“No matter how you’re feeling, look out for everybody else,” said Unnasch.

This story was first published by Mary O'Connell at WFTS in Tampa Bay, Florida.