Health experts respond to conflicting WHO information regarding asymptomatic spread of COVID-19

Bexar County has classified 701 of its COVID-19 cases as asymptomatic

San Antonio Metro Health Director Dr. Dawn Emerick has responded to conflicting information from the World Health Organization about asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Metro Health Director Dr. Dawn Emerick has responded to conflicting information from the World Health Organization about asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

“We haven’t changed our position on asymptomatic, which is that we don’t know what the prevalence is in our community. That’s why we are doing that door-to-door random study. We’ll continue to proceed that, with that direction, and those assumptions regardless of the WHO statement,” Emerick said.

Coronavirus update San Antonio, June 9: 180 new cases, 2 new COVID-19 deaths reported; Officials discuss reopening county courts

On Monday, an official with the World Health Organization suggested asymptomatic people only rarely spread COVID-19. The WHO official clarified her statement on Tuesday and said it was referring to very few studies.

“What I was referring to yesterday during press conference were a very few studies, two or three studies, that have been published that actually tried to follow asymptomatic cases, so people who are infected over time and then look at all of their contacts and see how many additional people were infected and that’s a very small subset of studies,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at WHO.

WHO clarifies comments on asymptomatic spread of coronavirus: ‘There’s much unknown’

Metro Health also released this statement:

“Throughout this response, public health officials have had to adapt to new and changing circumstances. We know now that individuals can carry COVID-19 without any symptoms. In fact, our team just concluded a asymptomatic testing study that will shed light on the rate of asymptomatic infections and what that means for our community’s public health response. We anticipate sharing the results of this study with the public this summer.”

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association, said he was not surprised that WHO had to clarify comments on asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

“We know that there is substantial asymptomatic spread, which is why we ask people to wear masks. Both people who are infected and people who were not infected,” Benjamin said.


About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.