Symptoms of Covid-19 are a ‘poor marker of infection’, according to a new study.
RESEARCHERS at University College London (UK), claim 86 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus during lockdown did not have virus symptoms such as cough, and/or fever, and/or loss of taste/smell.
They say a more widespread testing programme is needed to catch ‘silent’ transmission.
The study, which is published in Clinical Epidemiology, used data from the Office for National Statistics Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot study – a large population based survey looking at the association between Covid-19 symptoms and test results.
The research included data from a representative population sample of 36,061 people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who were tested between April 26 and the June 27, 2020 and provided information of whether they had any symptoms.
The data showed 115 (0.32 per cent) people out of the total 36,061 in the pilot study had a positive test result.
Focusing on those with Covid-19 specific symptoms (cough, and/or fever, and/or loss of taste/smell), 158 (0.43 per cent) showed these symptoms on the day of the test.
Of the 115 with a positive result, 16 (13.9 per cent) reported symptoms and in contrast, 99 (86.1 per cent) didn’t.
The study also includes data on people reporting a wider range of symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath.
Of the sample who tested positive, 27 (23.5 per cent) were symptomatic and 88 (76.5 per cent) were asymptomatic on the day of the test.
The authors say the findings have significant implications for ongoing and future testing programmes.
Professor Irene Petersen (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) explained: “The fact that so many people who tested positive were asymptomatic on the day of a positive test result calls for a change to future testing strategies. More widespread testing will help to capture “silent” transmission and potentially prevent future outbreaks.
“Future testing programmes should involve frequent testing of a wider group of individuals, not just symptomatic cases, especially in high-risk settings or places where many people work or live close together such as meat factories or university halls. In the case of university halls, it may be particularly relevant to test all students before they go home for Christmas.
“Pooled testing could be one way to help implement a widespread testing strategy where several tests are pooled together in one analysis to save time and resources on individual testing.”
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