New York, Feb 20 (IANS) In yet another report claiming that China may not be reporting actual figures in the Coronavirus ourbreak, scientists have questioned China’s decision not to report symptom-free coronavirus cases and excluding those from the official list.
The report in the prestigious scientific journal Nature on Thursday claimed that China’s official reports on the number of coronavirus infections have not been including people who have tested positive for the virus but who have no symptoms.
“They fear the practice is masking the epidemic’s true scale. But public health experts say China is right to prioritize tracking sick patients who are spreading the disease,” claimed the report.
Earlier this month, officials from Heilongjiang province in northeast China announced that 13 people who had tested positive for the virus with a lab test but who had no symptoms had been removed from the region’s list of confirmed cases.
Officials said that they were following the commission’s guidelines for reporting infections, which state that such people should be classified as ‘positive cases’ rather than ‘confirmed cases’.
Only confirmed cases are noted in the commission’s official daily reports, said the report.
According to Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, they have always required that positive cases not be counted as confirmed cases.
But in some people, the virus might not have entered cells and started replicating.
But it’s not clear whether such ‘carriers’, who test positive for the virus but are not actually infected, exist. “That is one of the big scientific questions,” he was quoted as saying.
“Omitting these cases from official counts gives the impression that the virus is more severe than it really is,” said Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
This could mislead other countries that are trying to prepare for the most likely effects of an epidemic of the disease.
Researchers suspect that many more people have been infected than over 74,000 cases that have been reported to date, and that most cases are probably asymptomatic and would be positive if tested.
The overall death toll in China increased to 2,118 on Thursday, with a total of 74,576 confirmed cases.