Covid-19: What you need to know about infection risk

I can’t wait until there is something more fun about which to write! However, this is important.

A new study out of Germany reports two key findings that are important for people to know:

  1. People are most contagious at the beginning of the infection, before they show symptoms. That’s the reverse of SARS, where the ability to infect others increased over time. That’s why social distancing is so important with this disease. You can’t wait to distance yourself from someone after they start to show symptoms. By then, it’s too late.
  2. The length of time people are infectious varies with the severity of the disease. Mild cases will cease to be infectious by day 8; severe cases will be infectious for a longer time.

Germany has been far ahead of all other countries in tracking and controlling the coronavirus.(2) Unlike Italy, Spain or the US, the Germans have tracked known victims and interviewed and tested all of their contacts, whether showing symptoms or not.

A German laboratory developed the first test for the coronavirus in January of this year.(3) 

Thus German researchers have a good sense of the real rate of fatalities from the disease because they have a good estimate of the total number of people who are infected.

  1. Germany has 43,211 infected individuals, but only 211 deaths from the disease. That’s a fatality rate of 0.6%. Again, we believe the rate is so low because they have a more complete count of the number of infections.
  2. The US is reporting 83,545 known cases, but that’s only because of limited testing. We don’t know how many people have the virus but aren’t showing symptoms or not showing symptoms strong enough to warrant medical attention.
  3. If the German fatality rate is correct, and we apply that rate to the US, there may be 198,000 people in the US now carrying the virus.

Data from Iceland support the German findings. Half of the people testing positive for the coronavirus in Iceland have no symptoms of the illness.(6) The US lacks the test kits to check people who are asymptomatic.

Further, data from China suggests that each person with the virus who is out in public can infect an average of 3 other people every day. That’s why the rate of infection can increase so dramatically and another reason why social distancing is so important.



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