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Could more people have been infected with COVID-19?

A study conducted in Germany has suggested that the amount of people infected with COVID-19 could be 10 times higher than first reported.

The research, conducted by the University of Bonn, analysed nasal swabs and blood samples taken from a random sample of people in a small German town. This enabled them to work out how many people had been infected with the virus, using PCR testing and COVID-19 antibody testing by ELISA.

Once this number was established, they then compared it to the amount of deaths in the town to form a more accurate fatality rate. The findings were clear: there were far more cases than first thought.

When these figures were applied to figures across Germany, it was estimated as many as 1.8 million people could have had COVID-19. This is more than 10 times the figure initially thought.

What could these findings mean to the UK?

These findings are yet to be peer reviewed to test their accuracy, but if they were to be true it would mean that many more people in the UK would have been infected without knowing. 

If the same figures were applied to the UK, it’s thought as many 7.9 million people could have been infected with the virus according to Wales Online.

This would give us far more insight into what stage the pandemic is currently in.

Asymptomatic cases could be far greater

According to the study, as many as 1 in 5 people had no recollection of symptoms that could have been caused by COVID-19.

The amount of people infected with the virus who did not seek medical treatment or testing could be far greater than first anticipated. This could mean that symptoms were so mild that they never suspected they had COVID-19 or were completely non-existent.

Globally, this demonstrates the challenge that we face in containing the virus due to the amount of asymptomatic cases. The people with mild symptoms may still have passed on the condition to others.

Death rates are lower than first thought

The UK has had far less testing than other countries – including Germany. This means that our death rate for confirmed COVID-19 cases is far higher than is likely to be accurate. At the moment, the UK death rate is around 11% for confirmed cases.

If the findings from the German study prove to be accurate, it could mean that the death rate of people infected with the virus could be much lower globally. In actual fact, less than 1 in 100 people who contract the virus may be dying from it.

Could you have been infected and not know?

If found to be accurate and applicable to the wider population, the German study will mean that far more people have been infected without knowing. 

If you’re interested in finding out if you have already been infected without knowing you can carry out a COVID-19 IgG antibody test by the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay method (ELISA). This is the same test used in the study and it’s available from Your Sexual Health. 

These laboratory tests identify if you have the antibodies linked to COVID-19 within your blood.