The World Health Organization's statement that asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus is rare was "overboard compared to the official document" Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the White House adviser for health policy under former President Barack Obama, said Tuesday.
"If you actually read the document carefully, it says there are three studies that look at spread without symptoms," Emanuel said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Part of the problem, this is what they didn't make clear is when you have asymptomatic spread is you never develop symptoms. You can only tell at the end."
However, most virus carriers are most infectious one to three days before symptoms appear, and may still appear asymptomatic even when they aren't, said Emanuel.
"If they were a little more careful, they would have said you can spread it when you're asymptomatic, but still have symptoms and that makes it easier to trace," said Emanuel. People without symptoms can spread this disease. That's the important point. People who haven't developed symptoms yet have the virus, can spread the disease, actually are most infectious, and then they can go on to develop symptoms."
That means people must be very careful when they are around others who are not wearing masks, even if they don't have any symptoms, said Emanuel.
"It was a very confusing statement," said Emanuel. "You've got to be a little more precise if you're going to make a major statement to the entire world about how this disease is being spread."
Dr. Dave Campbell, the chief medical correspondent for "Morning Joe," said he agrees with Emanuel.
"I don't know whether today I may be in the beginning stages of having COVID-19, not know it, and be very contagious," said Campbell.
The WHO Tuesday tried to clarify its report, with Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the coronavirus pandemic, saying during a Facebook Live event Tuesday that "there are are a subset of people who don’t develop symptoms, and to truly understand how many people don’t have symptoms, we don’t actually have that answer yet.”
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