The significance of asymptomatic people in the current pandemic

2013
According to Dr. Peter Lombard, information about asymptomatic people is pertinent to understanding how the virus has spread throughout the island.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes have been on the increasing number of positive cases on island. But one statistic that was not at the forefront of the information shared with the public is how many of the 1,000-plus positive COVID-19 cases were from asymptomatic people.

Each day the numbers roll in, breaking down the spread of the COVID-19 infection and the number of civilians, military personnel, active cases, recovered cases, and deaths. The breakdown even lists cases by area and age. The community has also joined in by sharing business establishments where front-liner employees have tested positive, and establishments of possible exposure.

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But there isn’t much information available regarding how many of these positive cases are from asymptomatic individuals. Individuals, who, without the test, would not have known that they were carriers of the deadly infection. According to Dr. Peter Lombard, this information is pertinent to understanding how the virus has spread throughout the island.

“This is a very unique virus in that a huge amount of the spread of the virus is among people that are asymptomatic. So it is very important always keep that in mind when you are trying to evaluate what numbers mean as they come in,” Lombard said.

Lombard says 80 percent of all infections are spread by people who are showing no symptoms. But that number can be deceiving. Lombard says that because of asymptomatic cases we never really know how many cases are actually in our community because by and large those that do get tested are already presenting symptoms.

“So it would extremely viable to know that. You could probably imagine how difficult it would be to try to compile that data. Because we are getting samples from a variety of different places where their collection protocols are different. One clinic may have a slightly different protocol whether they are having patients fill out forms and then when they actually collect a nasal swab is there a place on the form to indicate if they were symptomatic or not,” the doctor said.

Because of this, we may not see hard data until published studies are conducted, Lombard said.

Until then, the rise in COVID cases recently reported may have a lot to do with asymptomatic carriers out and about in the community.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero says this is where the challenge lies in staving off the infection. Dr. Lombard is in agreement.

Already, Public Health is compiling the data of asymptomatic positive COVID cases to date. Meanwhile, the governor and Dr. Felix Cabrera, during a news conference, stressed that because the virus can be spread by asymptomatic individuals it is of utmost importance to follow the “Stay At Home” orders. They continue to urge people to wear masks and social distance.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.