Everyone Infected With COVID Has This One Thing in Common, Fauci Says
In a recent Q&A, he explained why asymptomatic people are just as contagious as those with symptoms.
With the coronavirus pandemic impacting all of our lives, average people have had to learn much more about epidemiology than they thought they would ever have to know. Understanding how the coronavirus spreads is vitally important, we all have to make safe choices based on that information. But it is challenging to keep up with these concepts, especially as experts themselves are still learning. Recently, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), cleared up one persistent point of confusion: what everyone infected with COVID has in common, regardless of whether they're symptomatic or not.
In a live-streamed Facebook Q&A on July 16, CEO Mark Zuckerberg relayed to Fauci that many users were asking in the comments of the video, "If someone isn't showing symptoms, then how is it that they could be contagious?"
"If you look at how you transmit from one person to another, the virus resides in the nasal pharynx and the back of the throat, so that's the reason why when you speak or cough or sing, the virus in droplets comes out," the doctor explained.
Whether or not your infection is causing symptoms of any kind doesn't matter—your respiratory droplets are still infected. And everyone releases a certain amount of droplets when they do the things Fauci listed (plus sneeze, yell, etc.).
"What we have found is that when you measure the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of asymptomatic people compared to people who are symptomatic, there doesn't seem to be any difference," Fauci continued. "Which means there's as much virus in the nose of a person who's asymptomatic as there is in a symptomatic person. Which means it is very, very likely, when that person talks or sneezes or whatever, that enough virus will come out to infect someone else. So there is not a lot of difference in virus load, even though people can be very different with regard to their symptoms."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) data supports the notion that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers can and do spread coronavirus. One of the CDC's most recent models estimates that 50 percent of COVID transmission occurs before the onset of symptoms.
That's a difficult thing to wrap one's head around, that you could feel completely fine and normal but still be as dangerous to others as a person with a severe case of COVID. But that's one of the reasons that the virus has been able to tear through the country so quickly. So continue to don your mask any time you leave your home and keep up with your social distancing. Whether you know it or not, you could be carrying the same amount of the virus as a hospitalized COVID patient. And for more from the NIAID director, Dr. Fauci Says These Places Across the U.S. Need to Shut Down ASAP.