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Current Affairs

Flaw observed in paper claiming Coronavirus transmission during incubation period

Date: 05 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A Correspondence published in the The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) about an asymptomatic Chinese woman infecting a German during the incubation period of the novel coronavirus turns out to be wrong as it was based on inaccurate information.

 

Background

The development is significant given that China’s National Health Commission Minister had first warned that the novel virus might be spreading even during the incubation period when symptoms do not show up.

 

Details

  • Government authorities spoke to the Chinese woman after NEJM published the finding. And it turns out that the Chinese woman did indeed have symptoms during her stay in Germany, when she came in contact with the German who fell sick.

  • But no tests were carried out in Germany to confirm if she was infected with the novel virus. She underwent testing for the novel coronavirus after her return to China and tested positive for the virus.

  • The NEJM paper confirming it meant that the novel virus indeed has the capability to infect people even before symptoms show up overtly. If it were true, it would mean that there is a possibility that people could spread the virus long before they know they have been infected.

  • The finding establishes that the virus was not transmitted by the Chinese woman during the incubation period and that the German man was not infected as a result of such transmission. The transmission had happened after the incubation period and when she was exhibiting symptoms.

  • WHO said that, asymptomatic infection may be rare, and transmission from an asymptomatic person is very rare with other coronaviruses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

  • The main driver of novel coronavirus transmission is people who exhibit overt symptoms. Such people will spread the virus more readily through coughing and sneezing.