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Detection of the new corona virus in people without symptoms
At the beginning of the month, mainly German citizens were brought back from the city of Wuhan, which was particularly affected by the new coronavirus, on the initiative of the federal government. Experts from Frankfurt were able to detect the virus in those returning who showed no symptoms of a lung disease. The pathogen can therefore also be transmitted by people who know nothing about their infection.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn expects the corona virus to spread in Germany in view of developments in Italy. "Corona has arrived in Europe as an epidemic," the minister said. "Therefore, we have to expect that it can spread in Germany," said Spahn. The virus can apparently also be transmitted by people who do not yet know about their illness.
Transmission by people who are unaware of their infection
As the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) writes in a current message, the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was unequivocally detected in returnees from China who showed no symptoms of a lung disease at the University Hospital Frankfurt. This means that the virus can potentially also be transmitted by people who do not yet know about their illness, the experts report.
Summary of new findings
At the beginning of February, experts from the Institute for Medical Virology at the University Hospital Frankfurt and the Health Office in Frankfurt am Main accompanied the return of predominantly German citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was affected by the new lung disease COVID-19, to Germany at the airport.
Together with their partners in infectiology at the University Hospital Frankfurt and the Institute for Virology at the Philipps University in Marburg, they have summarized their findings in a contribution that has now been published in the renowned “New England Journal of Medicine”.
Two returnees tested positive for SARS-CoV-2
In the current publication, the experts around Dr. Sebastian Hoehl and Prof. Sandra Ciesek from the Institute of Medical Virology at the University Clinic in Frankfurt explained the screening process that the 126 returnees from China went through at the beginning of February.
Already during the flight, ten patients were isolated who either had contact with potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19, had symptoms or accompanied symptomatic relatives, the clinic said. But none of them later confirmed infection with the virus.
The remaining people were checked for symptoms of a respiratory infection at the airport. One patient had a fever, but he was also tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 in the infectious diseases department of the University Hospital Frankfurt.
In order to ensure the greatest possible security, the scientists decided to offer all travelers a smear to rule out infection with the virus, regardless of symptoms of illness. Two people who had not noticed the symptom-based screening tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The results were confirmed in the virology at the Philipps University in Marburg. The two infected people were then treated in the infectious diseases department of the Frankfurt University Hospital under the direction of DZIF coordinator Prof. Maria Vehreschild. According to the information, even one week later one person showed no symptoms and the other person only very mild symptoms.
Symptom-based screening was not effective
"The symptom-based screening proved to be ineffective here," emphasized Prof. Sandra Ciesek, director of Frankfurt virology and scientist at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).
The two infected with SARS-CoV-2 were first identified by a smear and subsequent virus diagnosis. And the examinations have shown something else: "In these cases, a throat swab was sufficient for virus detection and, as previously assumed, a sample from the deep airways was not required."
This could also be an important indicator of a greater risk of infection for humans.
Transferable from person to person
It is known that the new corona virus is transferable from person to person. As the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) explains on its portal "infektionsschutz.de", it is currently assumed that it can take up to 14 days after infection to show signs of disease.
It is believed that, like other coronaviruses, the pathogen is transmitted primarily via respiratory secretions.
Researchers have found that the novel corona virus remains infectious on surfaces for up to nine days and that door handles, grab handles and the like are a possible transmission path for the pathogen. (ad)
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Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- German Center for Infection Research (DZIF): Detection of the new corona virus in symptom-free travelers from Wuhan, (accessed: February 25, 2020), German Center for Infection Research (DZIF)
- Frankfurt University Hospital: SARS-CoV-2: Detection of the new corona virus in asymptomatic travelers from Wuhan, (accessed: February 25, 2020), Frankfurt University Hospital
- Hoehl S. et al .: Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Returning Travelers from Wuhan, China; in: New England Journal of Medicine, (published: 02/18/2020), New England Journal of Medicine
- Federal Ministry of Health: Current information on the coronavirus, (accessed: February 25, 2020), Federal Ministry of Health
- Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA): Answers to frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), (accessed: February 25, 2020), infektionsschutz.de