Coronavirus masks? They’re helpful because asymptomatic people don’t even know they’re spreading it
04/27/2020 // Ethan Huff // Views

One of the things we know about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) in terms of how it spreads is that, in many cases, people who are infected but who don't have symptoms are unknowingly giving it to others. This is why there is a push from some to have as many people as possible wear face masks.

Though they are certainly not a foolproof way to stop the virus from spreading, face masks may help to prevent "spittle" from spreading as people talk, the insides catching these fluids after they leave the mouth. German researchers have also discovered that in patients who previously showed symptoms but no longer do, their sputum, as well as stool, can still spread the virus.

Asymptomatic transmission, in other words, is something worth considering as governments wrangle with how best to reopen society. While forcing people to wear masks is out of the question, some are looking to simply encourage it more strongly as a potential way to keep the virus at bay.

"With regard to COVID-19, we're learning that stealth in the form of asymptomatic transmission is this adversary's secret power," claims Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy.

As it turns out, the Navy decided to test the entire 4,800-member crew of the Theodore Roosevelt, which experienced a major outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). Of the 600 sailors who tested positive, 60 percent of them showed no symptoms whatsoever.

This same phenomenon was observed at a Boston homeless shelter where an outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted testing of all 397 residents. Of the 146 homeless who tested positive, not a single one showed any symptoms.



For most people, coronavirus shows no symptoms and people will never know they even had it

In Italy, one of the harder-hit countries by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the entire town where the country's first known death from the virus occurred was tested, revealing that many were infected but didn't even know it because they showed no symptoms.

"At the time the first symptomatic case was diagnosed, a significant proportion of the population, about 3 percent, had already been infected – yet most of them were completely asymptomatic," a researcher from the University of Padua wrote in Th Guardian.

Another study from China also found that many patients with confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) either do not have symptoms or stop showing them, all the while still being infectious. This suggests that many more people probably have the virus and don't even know it, and never will because they never got sick from it.

Here in the United States, testing is far more limited, and is not available to people who show no symptoms. Because of this, some authorities are recommending that people wear protective masks simply as a precautionary measure in case they are harboring the virus without being aware of it, which could help to protect the more vulnerable from catching it.

At the same time, because of the fact that many who contract the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) never show symptoms, perhaps it has already spread much further than initially believed, creating more widespread immunity without the need for a new vaccine.

"If it turns out that, say, 20 percent of the U.S. has been infected, that would mean the coronavirus is more transmissible but less deadly than scientists think," wrote science journalist Ed Yong in a piece for The Atlantic. It would also mean that a reasonable proportion of the country has some immunity."

More of the latest news about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is available at

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