What's the Difference Between "Asymptomatic" and "Presymptomatic" COVID-19 Patients?

WHO COVID-19 technical lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove recently clarified her comment during a social media Q&A that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 was "very rare," after medical experts from around the world countered the claim.

"I used the phrase ‘very rare’ and I think that it’s a misunderstanding to state the asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare," the expert said, according to The Guardian. "What I was referring to was a subset of studies. I was also referring to some data that isn’t published."

This also led to the discussion of the difference between asymptomatic and presymptomatic infection: aysmptomatic infection, wherin the patient does not show any symptoms at all, has arguably happened, but there has yet to be a measurement on how often it does.

What most people consider as "asymptomatic" is actually "presymtomatic," a term which pertains to those who have COVID-19 and are already infectious prior to them feeling sick or showing the hallmark signs of the infection. While WHO has still been trying to figure out how to deal with different transmission types, many studies have already shown that those who haven't been showing symptoms (asymptomatic or presymptomatic) may account up to 50 percent of the virus' spread. 


The best thing that the public can do for now is to continue mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing, and all other preventive measures to avoid COVID-19, as these steps help in supressing transmission.

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