Coronavirus outbreak: Can people without symptoms also test positive?

coronavirus

Asymptomatic transmission plays a major role in spreading the virus, say experts. (Source: Getty Images)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom actor Idris Elba recently tweeted saying he tested positive for coronavirus but showed no symptoms. "This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus," he wrote.

Elba is no exception. Studies on coronavirus have time and again found that people with no symptoms could also be infected and spread it, with experts arguing that this may play a major role in transmitting the virus. And these, experts point out, are people who have good immunity. "These patients are called asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus, which means that they do not have symptoms of infection but can test positive and spread it. They are usually young people who have good immune systems and are somehow able to fight the virus. Sometimes, there are just minor symptoms like mild running nose," Dr P Venkat Krishnan, internal medicines, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon, told indianexpress.com.

So, how do people with no symptoms know when to get tested for coronavirus? Doctors suggest only those with symptoms need to get themselves checked. "It is practically not possible to identify people who are not showing symptoms and are yet testing positive. You cannot test each and every person or it will only create more panic," he said.

Also, you cannot obviously know if you are sitting next to an asymptomatic person. "To be safe, we have to tell people who have been in contact with patients or have come from abroad to stay in isolation for two weeks. The best precautionary measure now is social distancing and self-quarantine. You should also avoid crowded places," added Dr Manjeetha Nath Das, internal medicines, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.

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coronavirus

People who have been in contact with patients or have come from abroad should stay in isolation for two weeks, suggest doctors. (Source: File photo)

People in India need not worry so much about asymptomatic carriers or spreaders, advised Dr Krishnan. "In India, the virus has not yet penetrated into our community — the cases at the moment are restricted to people who have travelled, their immediate companions and those they have come in contact with. Till now, third party transmission has not taken place, without any history of contact with someone travelling. So, the chances of coming in contact with an asymptomatic carrier is lesser," he explained.

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But one should avoid contact with a person who has travelled from any of the countries with cases of coronavirus. Besides, experts recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser, disinfecting surfaces and following the coughing and sneezing etiquette.