Estimates of 25 to 50 percent of coronavirus patients don’t experience symptoms

New estimates showing a significant number of those infected with coronavirus show no symptoms are prompting top health officials in the United States to reconsider guidance on whether Americans should wear masks to curb the spread. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield told NPR that an estimated 25 percent of coronavirus carriers experience no symptoms. Meanwhile, data out of large-scale testing for coronavirus in Iceland found 50 percent of those who tested positive with COVID-19 said they were asymptomatic.

Information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic. That may be as many as 25 percent.

To prevent further spread, top health officials are reconsidering past recommendations encouraging the general public not to wear masks. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said his office, the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) initially recommended against the use of masks based on the best available science at the time, but now the prevalence of asymptomatic cases has them rethinking that decision. 

“We’ve learned there’s a fair amount of asymptomatic spread, so we’ve asked the CDC to take a look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” Adams said Wednesday during an interview on “Good Morning America.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said recommendations that Americans wear masks to curb the spread of the virus are being considered. 

The CDC’s current guidance on masks is that sick people should wear them, but those who are healthy shouldn’t unless they are coming into contact with COVID-19 patients. 

Adams cautioned Americans who decide to wear a face covering that it does not mean they don’t have to practice social distancing, saying the most important thing everyone can do right now is stay home. 

WHO on Wednesday said they are continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks, and recommended the use of medical masks for people who are sick and those caring for them. 

“In these circumstances, masks are only effective when combined with other protective measures,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. 

Health officials have warned about the shortage of protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines working with patients. 

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