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The number of “secret” coronavirus carriers — people displaying no symptoms — could be much higher than previously thought, according to new research.
Researchers in two new studies published Wednesday found that as many as 80% of patients had asymptomatic cases of the virus, NBC News reported.
The first study, which was published in Thorax, found that 81% of cases on a cruise to Antarctica were people with no symptoms.
On the unidentified ship, which set sail in mid-March, some passengers and crew members began to develop symptoms, prompting eight to be evacuated, according to the report.
But out of the 217 people remaining on board, there were 128 who tested positive for the virus, but only 24 of those who showed symptoms, researchers said. The other 104 people were symptom-free before they were tested for the virus.
Meanwhile, researchers in the second study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, found a lower, but still significant number of patients were asymptomatic carriers of the virus in Wuhan, China.
Of 78 patients who tested positive for the virus, there were 33 people — or about 42 percent — who had no symptoms of the illness, researchers said.
These patients skewed younger, in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, and were more likely to be women, NBC News reported.
Experts say that the findings are a reminder to take health precautions even around those who do not appear to be ill.
“Many people still haven’t grasped the notion that asymptomatic people can be so common, and they wonder why it is they have to wear the mask when they’re feeling well, or why they have to keep doing this social distancing stuff,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who was not involved in either study, told the outlet.
“Simply exhaling can send out viral particles.”
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