COVID-19 Fact Checks

FALSE: Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is a myth

Rappler
FALSE: Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is a myth
The WHO, Philippine DOH, and US CDC all acknowledge that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 occurs
At a glance
  • Claim: Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is a myth and is not supported by science.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: The World Health Organization (WHO), as well as national health agencies like the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all acknowledge and warn against infections through asymptomatic patients. 
  • Why we fact-checked this: The article that contained this claim was flagged by Facebook’s fact-checking tool as potentially misleading. It was reported by 15 Facebook users for verification and has accumulated 409 reactions, 263 comments, and 1,084 shares since it was published on September 22.
Complete details

According to scientist Michael Yeadon, asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is a myth and is not supported by science. 

Yeadon is a British scientist who previously worked for Pfizer and whose views are often repeated by “anti-vaxxers” or people who question the safety of vaccines. Rappler has previously fact-checked a false claim by Yeadon that the COVID-19 pandemic was over and a vaccine was no longer necessary. 

His claim about asymptomatic transmission was made in a video embedded in an article on the website globaresearch.ca. This article was flagged by Facebook’s fact-checking tool as potentially misleading. It was reported by 15 Facebook users for verification and has accumulated 409 reactions, 263 comments, and 1,084 shares since it was published on September 22.

The claim that asymptomatic COVID-19 transmissions are not supported by science is false. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), as well as national health agencies like the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all acknowledge and warn against infections through asymptomatic patients. 

In a Q&A section on its website about how COVID-19 is transmitted, the WHO says infected people can be contagious and the virus can spread from them to other people whether or not they have symptoms. “While someone who never develops symptoms can pass the virus to others, it is still not clear how frequently this occurs and more research is needed in this area,” it says. 

On its webpage about frequently asked questions about COVID-19, the DOH says the risk of getting COVID-19 from a person without symptoms is very low. However, many infected people only experience mild symptoms, especially during the early stages of the disease. “It is therefore possible to get COVID-19 from an infected person with mild cough but is not feeling ill,” its says. 

On its own frequently asked questions page about how COVID-19 spreads, the US CDC says, “Anyone infected with COVID-19 can spread it, even if they do NOT have symptoms.”

A news article in the journal Nature, published on November 18, 2020, says evidence suggests that one in five infected people will not experience symptoms, and they transmit the virus to fewer people than someone with symptoms. However, there needs to be more research done on whether asymptomatic infections are driving the pandemic. 

Reuters has also fact-checked Yeadon’s claims about asymptomatic transmission, as well as a number of other false claims he has made. – Vernise Tantuco/Rappler.com