“#WHO’s latest needless screwup”
June 10, 2020 | 7:43pm
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of emerging diseases and zoonosis, said that people with the coronavirus but no symptoms aren’t driving the spread — then backtracked the next day,
AFP via Getty Images
At a briefing Monday, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of emerging diseases and zoonosis, said that people with the coronavirus but no symptoms aren’t driving the spread. A day later, she clarified that the science isn’t clear.
“From the data we have,” she explained the first day, “it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. It’s very rare,” according to “a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing.”
After that got huge publicity as an apparent game-changer, she hedged the next day, “I did not say that asymptomatic cases cannot transmit; they can,” she said. “The question is, do they? And if they do, how often is that happening?”
There’s a technical angle here, too: the difference between truly asymptomatic people (who never show symptoms) and pre-symptomatic ones (who will, in a few days).
Bottom line: No top public-health experts should talk to the press unless they’re ready to avoid misunderstandings the first time. This kind of flip-flop only breeds paranoia.
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