COVID-19 infections likely much higher than official figures, Sudbury immunologist says

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Dr Alain Simard says asymptomatic carriers are not tested and do not know they are carriers of the coronavirus

Sudbury immunologist Dr. Alain Simard estimates that there are many more people in the Sudbury area infected with the coronavirus than we know. He said the number could be up to 10 times higher than the official figures.

Simard, an associate professor in the division of medical sciences at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, commented this week on the latest spike in COVID-19 cases reported by Public Health Sudbury & Districts, which revealed Wednesday that 10 new confirmed cases had been reported. . Health unit numbers also revealed that over a 10-day period, there were 22 new confirmed cases.

Simard said most of these cases were tracked by the health unit and were the result of someone coming into contact with a traveler. He said that included the eight new cases reported on Monday, July 27.

“And then two days later the 10 new cases came out and a good chunk of them were all with unknown exposure. For me, this is where things get a lot more worrying, ”said Simard.

“Basically it means the virus is moving through our community again and we don’t know where it’s coming from. It could be anyone. And that’s when we might lose control of things. “

When asked if that could mean a second wave was on the way, Simard said the very idea of ​​a second wave was questionable. He cited a World Health Organization report indicating that the first wave has not yet disappeared in most cases.

Simard said it could be argued that the virus has disappeared locally as no cases were reported in Sudbury during the last week of June or the first weeks of July.

“But you must be wondering if it’s really gone? Because research so far shows that for every symptomatic person, there are potentially ten more who are infected who are asymptomatic. And that number 10 might be a bit of a stretch for our region, but in some parts of the world it is, ”said Simard.

He said he believed there was a good chance the virus was still in Sudbury at a low level, but conventional testing procedures failed to detect him.

“Most of the tests will be people who might not be feeling well; they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I might have COVID’ so they’re going to get tested. We focus much more on these people and select those at risk and these will be tested regularly. ”

Simard used himself as an example, saying he wasn’t tested because he didn’t think he needed it.

“People who are infected may not have any symptoms, so [they see] no reason to get tested. Therefore, we believe the virus is not in the city. It is therefore possible that the virus was present at very low levels throughout this period. We don’t know, ”he said.

Simard also commented on the study released last week by Canadian Blood Services which found that less than 1% of Canadians were exposed to the virus and contained antibodies in their blood samples indicating they were infected. Simard said that even though the number of exposures was less than 1%, the number was still much higher than the total number of COVID-19 officially tested and reported in Canada.

“We have known for some time that there are a lot of asymptomatic cases and that the numbers they report are actually underestimated. They are inferior to reality and all of this is because a lot of the infections remain asymptomatic, ”said Simard.

He said the lull that occurred, without any reported cases in early July, could have created a false sense of security for Sudbury residents. Simard said there were also a number of people who will not observe social circles, who will not social distancing, and who will not wear masks.

“And all the time, they could wear it and pass it on to others. They just don’t know it, ”he said.

Simard said people need to take the pandemic more seriously, but he said he didn’t think the government should reintroduce restrictions.

“I think they will think about it. I don’t know if they will. There are a few examples where we should take a closer look, ”he said.

“Personally, I don’t think we need to go back to full lockdown. “

He said there were good physical and mental health reasons for avoiding a lockdown, such as for people in need of surgery and those who have difficulty staying locked up for long periods of time.

“Now we have a lot more knowledge and we have the tools to prevent the spread. You know, keep your distance two meters and wear a mask. And we know the mask makes a huge difference, ”he says.

“As long as people respect these measures, we should be able to control this.”

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