Asymptomatic presentation occurs in many diseases. The majority of COVID-19 patients (estimated at 80 percent) show symptoms of the disease.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that the virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing, or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols.
WHO states that most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
COVID-19 is not unique in sometimes having an asymptomatic presentation. SARS, MERS, influenza, Ebola, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile, Lassa, Japanese encephalitis, Epstein-Barr, and polio are all diseases that can be deadly in one person but asymptomatic in the next.
According to WHO, an asymptomatic case is a person infected with COVID-19 who does not develop symptoms. Asymptomatic transmission refers to the transmission of the virus from a person who does not then develop symptoms. Regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, people infected with COVID-19 can be contagious and the virus can spread from them to other people.
As reported in Nature, present evidence suggests that about one in five people with COVID-19 will experience no symptoms, and they will transmit the virus to significantly fewer people than someone with symptoms.
A meta-analysis published in October 2020, which included 13 studies involving 21,708 people, calculated the rate of asymptomatic presentation to be 17 percent and found that asymptomatic individuals were 42 percent less likely to transmit the virus than symptomatic people.
The majority of COVID-19 patients (estimated at 80 percent) still show symptoms of the disease, however mild or severe the symptoms may be. Since the majority of COVID-19 cases comprise symptomatic patients, the role played by asymptomatic patients should not be exaggerated to discount the seriousness of the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.