KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Health experts are sounding the alarm about the spread of COVID-19 by people who do not know they have the virus. Pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people may be responsible for the spike in cases.
“Asymptomatic transmission is at the heart of the spread,” said Johnson County Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola.
Areola said four out of five COVID-19 infections are linked to people who do not know they are infected with the virus.
“What that number does really, is just underscores the need to take all the precautions that were talking about,” Areola said.
Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic folks driving the exponential transmission of COVID-19 means mask-wearing, social distancing, staying away from crowds, sanitizing and all of the precautions to avoid transmission of COVID-19 are more important now than ever.
KCMO Health Director Dr. Rex Archer said what is driving the spread now is how the virus got here in the first place.
“We were really trying to keep people from coming back from China and then eventually from Europe and checking at the airports for temperature and symptoms and quarantining and isolating folks,” Archer said. “Then all of a sudden we found out, oh, it’s already all over the place. That had to be asymptomatic.”
Archer says 30-50% of people infected with COVID-19 have little to no symptoms. Covid fatigue plus believing people who don’t feel sick are safe are contributing to the skyrocketing spread of the virus. So much, in fact, asymptomatic spreaders are one of the priorities for contact tracers.
“So if we can identify some of them and get them aware so that they go into quarantine and don’t expose others, that’s kind of our priority right now,” Archer said.
Both Archer and Areola urge folks who have had close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive should quarantine for 14 days, even if they do not feel sick. Stopping asymptomatic spread will go a long way in getting control of the out of control spread.