China’s National Health Commission acknowledged that asymptomatic carriers can infect others and cause outbreaks.
Asymptomatic carriers don't show symptoms such as fever, coughing, and sore throat, although test positive during nucleic acid testing.
There were 1,541 asymptomatic carriers in China by March 30, according to the commission. But China commentators suggested that the true number could be far greater.
The commission admitted in the article that it could be difficult to identify these carriers, as they don't feel sick. The carriers wouldn't be easily detected by nucleic acid test or blood test alone, it added.
Currently, carriers are found after they get tested—usually because they came into close contact with diagnosed patients, were exposed to diagnosed patients, or recently traveled to Hubei province or countries where the outbreak is severe, the commission stated.
Health authorities haven't conducted large-scale testing, so “there are asymptomatic carriers [in society] that are hard for us to find.”
Real NumberThe Chinese regime previously didn't count asymptomatic carriers into their total numbers of infections. Nor did it count patients who exhibited symptoms or lung damage consistent with the new virus, but tested negative during nucleic acid testing.
U.S.-based China commentator Tang Jingyuan said the commission’s new announcement is likely due to the regime realizing it can no longer ignore such cases and risk another big outbreak.
He said while official figures are likely underreported, he could extrapolate that there are at least 100,000 asymptomatic carriers in China.
“By our most conservative estimate, at least 59 percent of the infected individuals were out and about, without being tested and potentially infecting others,” Wu told Nature magazine in an interview. Most unreported cases were people with mild or no symptoms, the study authors concluded.
According to estimates, the official figure represents only the detected cases, or just 41 percent of all infections, or about 200,000. And, as many as 118,000 people could be asymptomatic carriers.
Tang said the regime suddenly decided to report asymptomatic carriers because another outbreak could lead to another crisis.
Beijing was keen to report no more domestic infections “to push all businesses to resume production ... but now, it is worried that people believe the official figures and won’t take health precautions, which would cause another large-scale outbreak,” Tang said.