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Looking for COVID-19 Symptoms Are Not Necessarily A Good Indicator of Infection

New UK population study shows majority of those who test positive did not have typical symptoms associated with the virus.

A new study coming from the United Kingdom found that 86% of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 did not have a cough, and/or fever, and/or loss of taste/smell.

This statistic comes from data collected from the Office for National Statistics Coronavirus Infection Survey pilot study. This was a large population based survey of 36,061 people looking at the association between Covid-19 symptoms and Covid-19 test results.

The data showed 115 (0.32%) people tested positive. Of the 115,16 (13.9%) reporting symptoms and in contrast, 99 (86.1%) did not report any specific symptoms on the day of the test.

"The fact that so many people who tested positive were asymptomatic on the day of a positive test result calls for a change to future testing strategies,” Irene Petersen, PhD, professor of Epidemiology and Health Informatics, University College London stated. “More widespread testing will help to capture "silent" transmission and potentially prevent future outbreaks.”

The study also includes data on people reporting a wider range of symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath. Of the sample who tested positive, 27 (23.5%) were symptomatic and 88 (76.5%) were asymptomatic on the day of the test.

The research included a population sample of who were tested between April 26 and June 27. The findings were published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology.

"Pooled testing could be one way to help implement a widespread testing strategy where several tests are pooled together in one analysis to save time and resources on individual testing,” Petersen explained. “This strategy would be an efficient way to test when the overall prevalence is low as negative pooled samples can quickly show a large group of people are not infectious."

The authors did note that several studies have highlighted a lower proportion of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 are asymptomatic, however, the prevalence of asymptomatic cases varies substantially, possibly due to the sampling and the settings of the study.