this happens much more often than expected

On a cruise ship, 8 in 10 people were found to carry the virus, but not to develop symptoms.

People who have the coronavirus among the members can get sick of it. The virus mainly targets the lungs and can cause fever and respiratory complaints. In the meantime, nearly 5.7 million people on earth have contracted the virus, of which almost 46,000 in the Netherlands. However, it is possible that these numbers are many times higher. Because in a new study, researchers state that it often happens that people have the coronavirus without noticing it.

Cruise ship
The researchers base this conclusion on an in-depth analysis of people on board a cruise ship. The researchers themselves were also on this ship and describe the events firsthand. The ship departed in mid-March after the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic for a planned 21-day cruise. The ship sailed from the town of Ushuaia in Argentina to Antarctica, following a similar route to that of the explorer Ernest Shackleton in 1915 to 1917.

Some precautions were taken on board the ship. For example, passengers who had traveled through countries where corona figures were high in the previous three weeks were denied boarding. In addition, the temperature of everyone who got on board was first recorded. In addition, special places were set up everywhere on the ship where people could disinfect their hands. But to no avail. The first patient was reported on day eight of the trip, after which all passengers were no longer allowed to leave their cabins. As Argentina had closed the borders, the ship continued to Montevideo in Uruguay, where it arrived on day 13. Eight passengers and crew were taken to hospital with respiratory complaints at this point.

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On day 20, all remaining 217 passengers and crew were tested for the coronavirus. More than half (128 people, 59 percent) tested positive. Among those found to have the virus among members, 24 (19 percent) showed symptoms. But surprisingly, 108 people (81 percent) did not develop any symptoms. That means 8 out of 10 people carried the virus but had no symptoms. The spread of the virus on cruise ships is likely to be “significantly underestimated,” the researchers said. They therefore recommend that all passengers who leave a cruise ship first check for the corona virus to prevent further spread.

Silent infection
The study emphasizes that it is therefore quite possible to carry the coronavirus without you noticing it. Researchers from another study also found that 43% do not develop symptoms. It means that there may be far more people with such a “silent”, symptom-free infection than previously thought. “It is difficult to make a reliable estimate of the number of COVID-positive patients without symptoms,” said researcher Alan Smyth. “But a percentage of just 1 percent suggested by the WHO in early March seems very outdated.” He stresses the urgent need for accurate, global data on how many people have actually been infected. “The findings imply that a much higher percentage of the population may be infected with COVID,” says Smyth.

How contagious?
The question is whether people who carry the coronavirus but have no symptoms can easily transmit the virus to others. “Determining the true infectivity of symptomless coronavirus carriers should become an urgent priority,” said epidemiologist Ivo Mueller, not involved in the study. Other scientists also share their insights. “When people don’t show symptoms, they don’t have a runny nose or cough,” says researcher Brian Oliver, of the University of Technology in Sydney. “It is therefore unlikely that they pose a major threat to society. On the other hand, if people think they are not sick, they can neglect measures and their own hygiene. ” Professor Bruce Thompson of Swinburne University is also responding. The bottom line is that a significant number of people have the virus, but are not showing any symptoms. However, it is reassuring that this does not seem to be escalating. That is, we do not see deaths among the population of people who tested positive but have no symptoms. In addition, they do not seem to transmit the virus for a long time and they also recover more quickly. ” However, all experts emphasize the importance of more testing. “Risk contacts should be tested regardless of whether someone has symptoms or not,” said scientist Raina MacIntyre, an expert in influenza and emerging infectious diseases. “Otherwise we will miss cases.”

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In the meantime, hard work is being done on a vaccine. And that is going well. The first experiments with the corona vaccine mRNA-1273, for example, yield nice initial results. The preliminary results of the human experiments suggest that the vaccine is effective; people who received the vaccine produced about as many or even more antibodies to the virus than people who actually got infected by the virus.

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