State News

'Silent carriers:' Of 259 inmate COVID-19 cases, 98% in NC prison showing no symptoms

Posted April 17, 2020 3:56 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2020 12:07 p.m. EDT

— A COVID-19 outbreak at a North Carolina state prison has spread to 259 inmates, prison officials said Friday. But an even more alarming statistic came to light: Of the 259 infected, a full 98% showed no symptoms, according to State prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee.

Infectious disease experts Dr. Allen Mask and Dr. David Wohl explained what this could mean for the broader public. They said there are likely many people walking around with COVID-19, completely unaware they are carriers.

"This infection is much more widespread than we think that it is," said Dr. Allen Mask.

"Many folks probably who have been infected, don't know it," said Dr. Wohl.

That, they said, is why testing is essential--to identify infectious carriers and determine the best way to isolate them.

"This shows you that the embers for the big forest fire are still there," Dr. Wohl.

Doctors said this could mean many people are walking around North Carolina in the public with no signs of infections or sickness.

Dr. Wohl stressed that without testing, we have no real idea how many people have the virus. He said we are working blind.

"Right now we do not know how many people are infected with COVID-19 in the United States or in North Carolina--because we haven't tested enough people to find that out," said Dr Wohl.

Doctors said they are concerned as social distancing loosens, those who show no signs of the virus could potential spread it more quickly.

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