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Taking a look at asymptomatic carriers

Augusta Health said asymptomatic carriers can spread COVID-19 without even realizing it. | Credit: WHSV
Augusta Health said asymptomatic carriers can spread COVID-19 without even realizing it. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT
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An estimate by Dr. Anthony Fauci said anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. We talked with a doctor and a nurse from Augusta Health to break down exactly what that means.

"One of us could be a presymptomatic or asymptomatic carrier and not know it," Dr. Allison Baroco, medical director of infectious diseases for Augusta Health, said.

COVID-19 often brings a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. For some, there may be no warning.

"Over 20 percent of people will be asymptomatic, meaning they'll have the virus, and they could be carrying it around," Dr. Baroco said.

Augusta Health said those asymptomatic carriers could be spreading the virus, without realizing it.

"A presymptomatic or an asymptomatic person in a room can contaminate a surface, and then that contamination can be picked up from the next person, who contaminates their eyes, nose or mouth," Stefanie Bartley, a nurse and infection preventionist said.

Augusta Health said people can also be presymptomatic, meaning they will eventually show symptoms, but are contagious before that happens. Both the possibility of asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers are why people should be wearing masks, according to Augusta Health.

"These masks are crucially important in catching the droplets in whoever is coughing or sneezing or just from talking," Dr. Baroco said.

Augusta Health said while there are estimates for how many people are truly asymptomatic, it's difficult to tell without widespread testing.

"If we could test everyone in the community, and test them every 3-5 days, we would have a better estimate or guess of what is going on," Dr. Baroco said.

It's possible that antibody testing will show who has COVID-19, even if they never showed any symptoms. Dr. Baroco said there are still a lot of questions.

"I think it's too early for us to really know what the utility of the test will be, and how we can really use it," Dr. Baroco said.

She added the tests could show both false positive and false negative tests. Dr. Baroco said antibodies take time to develop, and there are other strains of coronavirus.

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