Coronavirus: almost half of infections happen before symptoms appear

Coronavirus: almost half of infections happen before symptoms appear
Credit: Belga

In 44% of cases, people infected with the new coronavirus (Covid-19) infect other people before they even start showing any symptoms themselves, the Federal Public Health Service announced on Tuesday.

A study, published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine last week, showed that 44% of infections take place before any symptoms appear. The researchers were looking into how people keep infecting each other, even in lockdown situations, announced professor and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht, during the daily coronavirus press briefing.

44% of the infections take place in the first two days before the onset of the first symptoms, and 56% happen when people are already ill. "That means that, on average, about half of the infections take place before we even show any symptoms," said Van Gucht.

"It has also been shown that the contagiousness of the virus peaks at the very beginning of symptoms. The virus is produced the most then," he said, adding that this illustrates the importance of immediately isolating yourself at the first sign of symptoms.

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“Do not think ‘it is just a sore throat, it will pass’, but self-isolate immediately, and contact your GP,” Van Gucht said. "It is at this moment that you are at the highest risk of infecting someone else," he added.

Preventing those infections, before any symptoms have even appeared and people are not aware they are carrying the virus yet, is more difficult, but 'contact tracing' could be a possible strategy, according to Van Gucht.

The announcement follows the news that Belgium will hire 2,000 investigators who will work to trace the people who have been in contact with confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients, the so-called "corona detectives."

"When people receive a message on their phone, or from a doctor, telling them that they have been in contact with an infected person, and may be carrying the virus themselves, they can isolate themselves at home in advance, in such a way that they will not infect anyone in those two days before the symptoms occur," Van Gucht added.

"By applying this systematically, we will be able to keep this virus away in the future," he said.

On Tuesday, Belgium reported a total number of 40,956 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with a death toll of almost 6,000.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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