Most people infected with COVID-19 have symptoms

In a new study, researchers found while some people who contract COVID-19 infections never experience any symptoms, there remains disagreement about what proportion of total infections these cases represent.

The finding suggests that true asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 comprise a minority of infections.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

The full spectrum and distribution of the severity of COVID-19 symptoms are not well understood.

Some infected people may experience severe infections resulting in viral pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, and death, while others remain completely asymptomatic or develop mild, nonspecific symptoms.

In the study, researchers reviewed published findings using a database of SARS-CoV-2 evidence between March and June 2020.

They then analyzed 79 studies reporting empirical data on 6,616 people, 1,287 of whom were defined as asymptomatic, in order to determine the proportion of infected people who never developed symptoms.

While the study was limited by its inability to ascertain the impact of false negatives, the researchers were able to estimate that 20% of COVID-19 infections remained asymptomatic during follow-up.

The team says accurate estimations of true asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections are critical to understanding COVID-19 transmission at the population level and for populations to adapt appropriately tailored public health strategies.

One author of the study is Diana Buitrago-Garcia.

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.

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