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Journal: Annals of internal medicine


A novel human coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified in China in December 2019. There is limited support for many of its key epidemiologic features, including the incubation period for clinical disease (coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19]), which has important implications for surveillance and control activities.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread rapidly throughout the world since the first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were observed in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It has been suspected that infected persons who remain asymptomatic play a significant role in the ongoing pandemic, but their relative number and effect have been uncertain. The authors sought to review and synthesize the available evidence on asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Asymptomatic persons seem to account for approximately 40% to 45% of SARS-CoV-2 infections, and they can transmit the virus to others for an extended period, perhaps longer than 14 days. Asymptomatic infection may be associated with subclinical lung abnormalities, as detected by computed tomography. Because of the high risk for silent spread by asymptomatic persons, it is imperative that testing programs include those without symptoms. To supplement conventional diagnostic testing, which is constrained by capacity, cost, and its one-off nature, innovative tactics for public health surveillance, such as crowdsourcing digital wearable data and monitoring sewage sludge, might be helpful.


Tests for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) based on reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are being used to “rule out” infection among high-risk persons, such as exposed inpatients and health care workers. It is critical to understand how the predictive value of the test varies with time from exposure and symptom onset to avoid being falsely reassured by negative test results.


No effective oral therapy exists for early coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


Risk for transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to close contacts of infected persons has not been well estimated.


The role of fecal aerosols in the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has been suspected.


Obesity, race/ethnicity, and other correlated characteristics have emerged as high-profile risk factors for adverse coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-associated outcomes, yet studies have not adequately disentangled their effects.


The hypothesized link between the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism continues to cause concern and challenge vaccine uptake.


The new coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused more than 210 000 deaths worldwide. However, little is known about the causes of death and the virus’s pathologic features.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has spread globally in a few short months. Substantial evidence now supports preliminary conclusions about transmission that can inform rational, evidence-based policies and reduce misinformation on this critical topic. This article presents a comprehensive review of the evidence on transmission of this virus. Although several experimental studies have cultured live virus from aerosols and surfaces hours after inoculation, the real-world studies that detect viral RNA in the environment report very low levels, and few have isolated viable virus. Strong evidence from case and cluster reports indicates that respiratory transmission is dominant, with proximity and ventilation being key determinants of transmission risk. In the few cases where direct contact or fomite transmission is presumed, respiratory transmission has not been completely excluded. Infectiousness peaks around a day before symptom onset and declines within a week of symptom onset, and no late linked transmissions (after a patient has had symptoms for about a week) have been documented. The virus has heterogeneous transmission dynamics: Most persons do not transmit virus, whereas some cause many secondary cases in transmission clusters called “superspreading events.” Evidence-based policies and practices should incorporate the accumulating knowledge about transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to help educate the public and slow the spread of this virus.