Why Testing Asymptomatic People Is Crucial to Ending the Pandemic

In the early stages of the pandemic, health experts often advised that people without symptoms did not necessarily need to get tested for COVID-19. However, as we have continued to learn more about this disease, it has become clear that testing asymptomatic people is crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Asymptomatic Carriers

Initially, the CDC advised that those exposed to COVID-19 who were not experiencing symptoms did not need to obtain a coronavirus test. But that guidance initially might have stemmed from concerns over the availability of testing supplies, with experts feeling that tests should be reserved for people who clearly showed symptoms of the virus. At the point we are in now with the pandemic, the truth is that concerns over the transmission of the disease through asymptomatic carriers mean that any potential exposure should warrant a test.

A study conducted by Duke University on its strategy of surveillance and testing for coronavirus was published in November 2020 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results showed that more than half of the students who tested positive (about 51%) were asymptomatic and showed none of the commonly accepted symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. This is a clear indication that testing only those individuals with symptoms would mean overlooking a significant portion of people infected with the virus.

High Viral Load

Additionally, Duke University’s study noted that many asymptomatic individuals who tested positive had a very high viral load. These individuals, who would not have known or even suspected they were infected with the virus at all had they not been tested, could potentially be walking around with a very high viral load and infecting numerous other people. Many studies have also shown that individuals infected just prior to showing symptoms often carry a higher viral load, as well. This is yet another reason why social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing face masks is so important, as these actions can significantly lower your risk of infection.

When in Doubt, Get Tested

With many locations now offering drive-through testing options and walk-up testing, it is easier than ever to obtain a COVID-19 test. If there is any possibility you might have been exposed, even without experiencing symptoms, you should be tested as soon as possible. Coronavirus tests are much more widely available then they were at the start of the pandemic, so the concerns about a lack of testing supplies are no longer as serious of an issue. Before traveling and visiting with family, it would be a good idea to be tested, just in case.