Chinese researchers published a paper Thursday that concluded, based on analyzing blood samples for their antibody counts, that coronavirus infections in the city of Wuhan were at least three times as numerous as the official count of 50,340 cases.
Reuters noted the study, conducted by the virology laboratory at Wuhan University and published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal, was in line with other Chinese research that very belatedly confirmed the numbers given to the rest of the world by the Chinese government were much lower than the true number of infections:
The study suggested at least two thirds of the total number were asymptomatic, and thousands could have been infected after the “elimination” of clinical cases, raising the possibility the virus could exist in a community for a long period without causing hospitalizations.
A separate study published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late last month put the “seroprevalence” rate in Wuhan, the percentage of the population with antibodies, even higher at 4.43%, implying that around half a million people in the city could have been infected.
China still claims only 87,331 Chinese coronavirus infections and 4,634 fatalities in total.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted Wuhan University dean of health sciences Yu Xuejie stressing the difficulty of detecting asymptomatic coronavirus cases and said “people should stay vigilant.”
“It is not a bad thing if the virus continues to stay in a form that will not cause the disease. Living with non-pathogenic viruses can instead boost our immune system,” Yu said.
The Wuhan University team postulated that several strains of the coronavirus were in play, and the “less virulent strains” are more difficult to detect, but they still a cause for concern because they could “cause symptoms in extremely susceptible individuals and revert to a highly virulent strain to reignite the epidemic.”