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40 percent of coronavirus carriers in Italian town show no symptoms, study finds

More than 40 percent of people diagnosed with Covid-19 in one Italian town showed no signs of being ill, according to research published on Tuesday, indicating that asymptomatic carriers may be significant spreaders of the virus.

40 percent of coronavirus carriers in Italian town show no symptoms, study finds
Soldiers at the town of Vo' Euganeo in Veneto (north-east Italy) in March. File photo: AFP
The authors said their research showed how important mass testing and isolating carriers was in containing clusters of the virus.
 
The town of Vo' Euganeo, population 3,200, in the Veneto region is where Italy's first death from the disease was recorded in late February.  It was immediately placed under lockdown, during which time researchers were able to test more than 85 percent of the population for Covid-19.
 
They found that 2.3 percent of Vo was infected at the beginning, compared with 1.2 percent at the end of lockdown, and that more than 40 percent of those who tested positive showed no symptoms.
 
Photo: AFP
 
The authors of the research, published in the journal Nature, said their findings showed how rapid case isolation and mass testing was able to effectively eliminate the virus from Vo.
 
“Testing of all citizens, whether or not they have symptoms, provides a way to manage the spread of disease and prevent outbreaks getting out of hand,” said Andrea Crisanti, of the Department of Molecular Medicine of the University of Padua and the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London.
 
“Despite 'silent' and widespread transmission, the disease can be controlled.”
 
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The team found that asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers had a similar viral load to those who got sick, suggesting that while not ill themselves they could still spread the virus.
 
“Even asymptomatic infections have the potential to contribute to transmission,” said Enrico Lavezzo, from the University of Padua, who contributed to the study.
 
This was particularly noteworthy for policymakers seeking to limit COVID-19 clusters from spreading, he said.
 
“An asymptomatic infection is entirely unconscious of carrying the virus and, according to their lifestyle and occupation, could meet a large number of people without modifying their behaviour,” said Lavezzo.
 
The data from Vo also showed that none of the children under the age of 10 tested positive for COVID-19 despite living with several adults who did.
 
A Europe-wide study released last week showed that children are extremely unlikely to die from COVID-19, and age is known to be a key risk factor for the virus' mortality.
 
Co-author Ilaria Dorigatti, from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial, said the findings were relevant for governments as lockdowns are eased around the world.
 
“The Vo study demonstrates that the early identification of infection clusters and the timely isolation of symptomatic as well as asymptomatic infections can suppress transmission and curb an epidemic in its early phase,” she said.
 
See all of The Local's coverage of the coronavirus crisis in Italy here.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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