Pre-Symptomatic & Asymptomatic People Can Transmit COVID: WHO Chief Scientist

New Delhi: The most worrisome feature of novel coronavirus is that a patient without any symptom can be the ‘silent spreader’. There are a wide range of symptoms of the deadly virus, many of them so mild that they may be unnoticeable.

There is a fair consensus by now that a large portion of COVID-19 patients could be paucisymptomatic, or asymptomatic.

World Health Organisation Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, in an interview to Outlook, affirmed that both asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people can transmit the virus.

She said that India and the world should be prepared for a long battle against COVID-19, and devise strategies accordingly.

“Pre-symptomatic is when you are perfectly fine today, but develop symptoms two days later. Many people are wearing loose masks which sometimes hang below their nose and that is not saving you from any infection. What we have learnt so far is that there is no single intervention that works, and in fact a combined strategy is needed,” explained Dr Swaminathan.

Lot of information, official and unofficial, is available about the disease. Expressing concerns about dealing with this, she said people should only go by reliable and credible information from authoritative sources.

“This is really a strange problem. We, at the WHO, do publication-screening on a daily basis… We are screening around 1000 publications and 500 papers on an average every day. That is why we say we are grappling with both a pandemic and an infodemic,” she said.

Regarding the hype about various under-trial vaccines or drugs — be it experimental vaccine of Oxford University, Patanjali’s Coronil, or approved drugs like Dexamethasone, Remdesivir and Favipiravir — she said that the effectiveness of any drug has to be based on clinical trials.

“The trial of a vaccine and having a vaccine are two different things. Currently, there are 12 vaccines globally that have entered human trials from Phase I to Phase II. We have to go by evidence-based studies. It is hard to prove the efficacy of any medicine or drug unless we conduct a study on it. But it is good to try traditional medicines for prevention. I will also add that there should be some scientific rational behind using any medicine or drug,” she said.

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