Infected but Feeling Fine: The Unwitting Coronavirus Spreaders – The New York Times,

Infected but Feeling Fine: The Unwitting Coronavirus Spreaders – The New York Times,

The C.D.C. director says new data about people who are infected but symptom-free could lead the agency to recommend broadened use of masks.

A patient being wheeled into Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. The C.D.C. director said on Tuesday that as many as (percent of people infected with the coronavirus may not show symptoms.) Credit …
Johnny Milano for the New York Times
(March) , Updated 9: 21 PM ET

  • As many aspercent of people infected with the new coronavirus may not show symptoms, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns – a startlingly high number that complicates efforts to predict the pandemic’s course and strategies to mitigate its spread.

  • In particular, the high level of symptom-free cases is leading the CDC to consider broadening its guidelines on who should wear masks. “This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country, ”the director, Dr. Robert Redfield, told National Public Radio
    in an interview (broadcast on Tuesday.

    The agency has repeatedly said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are feeling sick. But with the new data on people who may be infected without ever feeling sick, or who are transmitting the virus for a couple of days before feeling ill, Mr. Redfield said that such guidance was “being critically re-reviewed.”

    Researchers do not know precisely how many people are infected without feeling ill, or if some of them are simply presymptomatic. But since the new coronavirus surfaced in December, they have spotted unsettling anecdotes of apparently healthy people who were unwitting spreaders.

    “Patient Z,” for example, a – year-old man in Guangdong, China, was a (close contact of a Wuhan traveler infected with the coronavirus in February. But he felt no signs of anything amiss, not on Day 7 after the contact, nor on Day or . Already by Day 7, though, the virus had bloomed in his nose and throat, just as copiously as in those who did become ill. Patient Z might have felt fine, but he was infected just the same.

    Researchers now say that people like Patient Z are not merely anecdotes

    . For example, as many as percent of people infected with the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship never developed symptoms, according to one analysis. A team in Hong Kong suggests that from to percent of transmissions in China occurred before symptoms appeared.
  • If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.               

      (Should I wear a mask?)                  Experts

      are divided on how much protection a regular surgical mask, or even a scarf, can provide

  • for people who aren’t yet sick. The W.H.O. and C.D.C. Say that unless you’re already sick, or caring for someone who is, wearing a face mask isn’t necessary. And stockpiling high-grade N 122 masks will make it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need. But researchers are also finding that there are more cases of asymptomatic transmission than were known early on in the pandemic. And a few experts say that masks could offer some protection in crowded places where it is not possible to stay 6 feet away from other people. Masks don’t replace hand-washing and social distancing.