According to a new study, 50% or more of new COVID-19 cases originated from exposure to asymptomatic carriers. This highlights the need to focus on reducing the risk of transmission from people who have the virus but no symptoms.

At the same time, the researchers stressed the need to continue mask wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene. These efforts, along with strategic testing of people who are not ill, are key to slowing the spread of infection until widespread vaccination can occur.

Virus transmission, the researchers said, can stem from people who are infectious before developing symptoms, as well as those who get the virus but never experience symptoms. They said their findings suggest that the epidemic was growing faster than originally anticipated, as by the time a second generation of people was developing symptoms a third generation was already being infected.

These findings complement earlier assessments and reinforce the importance of asymptomatic transmission. The authors concluded, “The overall proportion of transmission from presymptomatic and never symptomatic individuals is key to identifying mitigation measures that may be able to control [the coronavirus].” Effective control, the authors stressed, “must mitigate transmission risk from people without symptoms.”

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