The threat of the new coronavirus spreading from a person not exhibiting any symptoms is very real, it came to light during a press briefing by the US President’s Task Force on the Novel Coronavirus, in Washington on Friday.
Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services with the US government and the chairman of the task force, brought to media’s attention the case of a woman as he remarked upon the “unknown” aspects of the virus.
“It was not clear whether an asymptomatic person could transmit it to someone while they were asymptomatic. Now we know from a recent lab report in Germany that that is absolutely the case,” said Anthony Fauci, the Director of US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who was also present at the press briefing.
Dr Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, informed journalists that the virus, epicentred in Wuhan, has spread to more than 23 countries and has infected at least 132 persons.
“This also includes 12 individuals who have been confirmed in six countries who did not travel to China,” Dr Redfield warned during his briefing.
Another unknown about the new coronavirus is its ability to regenerate itself in healed patients, it was revealed during the press briefing.
The claim has been backed by findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, reported having been signed by 17 doctors. The insightful study was published on Jan 30.
The journal cites the case of a 33-year-old German businessman who developed a temperature, accompanied by sore throat, chills and myalgias on Jan 24. The patient started feeling better in subsequent days and returned to work on Jan 27, as per the case report.
The report notes that the German businessman had been in contact with his Chinese business partner on Jan 20 and 21, who is said to have tested positive for coronavirus on her way back to China on Jan 26.
The German businessman, who remained afebrile, later tested positive for the virus, after his nasopharyngeal swab and sputum samples were collected. He, however, remained unaffected by coronavirus, indicating that the virus can stay within oneself without infecting the person.
“The fact that asymptomatic persons are potential sources of 2019-nCoV infection may warrant a reassessment of transmission dynamics of the current outbreak,” states the journal.
“In this context, the detection of 2019-nCoV and a high sputum viral load in a convalescent patient arouse concern about prolonged shedding of the virus after recovery,” the study adds.