Clarification Following Comments Suggesting Asymptomatic Transmission is Rare

UN Health Agency Technical Lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, caused a lot of confusion yesterday after she remarked on asymptomatic transmission saying, “It is very rare, and much of that is not published in the literature”. The comment ran contrary to the precautions being taken with everyone wearing masks and practicing social distancing regardless of observable symptoms.

Addressing the comments, the WHO social media presence seemed to suggest that a lot of questions surrounding the virus still remain, as well as distinguishing between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic. Dr. Kerkhove clarified what she was referring to were “subset of studies”, and “some data that isn’t published” that “actually try to follow asymptomatic cases”. She cited estimates suggesting asymptomatic transmission might account for between 6 and 40 percent of the population of transmission adding that “I think what’s important related to transmission is what we know, importantly what we don’t know and what we’re trying to do to really understand this very complex question”.

Dr. Kerkhove addressed her comments saying, “I used the phrase ‘very rare’ and I think that it’s a misunderstanding to state the asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare”. Needless to say, all precautions should be exercised and the consensus of experts matters more than seemingly contrarian comments

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