In epidemiology, contact-tracing describes the identification of individuals who have potentially come into contact with an infectious disease carrier.
The process is integral to mitigating communal spread and the development of supportive countermeasures during a pandemic.
In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, surveillance tactics were employed after multiple regions had already begun experiencing outbreaks. Home-testing was not yet available and medical facilities were directing patients who reported mild to moderate symptoms to self-quarantine until they felt well and then for an additional ten days after their symptoms had subsided.
Because of this, it is widely assumed that there is a sizable portion of Americans who have already contracted COVID-19 at some point in the last couple of months.
As of April 14th, at least 557,000 U.S citizens have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and 1.86 million have been diagnosed worldwide.
A new study conducted by the U.S.National Institutes of Health (NIH), aims to put a number to all of the undiagnosed COVID-19 cases in The U.S by analyzing blood samples for two variations of SARS-COV-2 antibodies; anti-SARS-CoV-2 S protein IgG and IgM.
The molecular cotton swab used by healthy systems in the early days of the blackswan catastrophe were a good way of diagnosing COVID-19 patients but they were not instructive in respect to prior infections.
“In this ‘serosurvey,’ researchers will collect and analyze blood samples from as many as 10,000 volunteers to provide critical data for epidemiological models,” the authors of the new paper wrote. “The results will help illuminate the extent to which the novel coronavirus has spread undetected in the United States and provide insights into which communities and populations are most affected.”
If you are a U.S citizen above the age of 18 who is not currently experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 but suspect that you might have contracted the disease at some point, consider consulting a healthcare professional.
They will refer you to a virtual clinic so that you can complete a health questionnaire to determine if you qualify to join the 10,000 volunteers who have submitted a blood sample to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.
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“This study will give us a clearer picture of the true magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States by telling us how many people in different communities have been infected without knowing it, because they had a very mild, undocumented illness or did not access testing while they were sick,” explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a media statement. “These crucial data will help us measure the impact of our public health efforts now and guide our COVID-19 response moving forward.”
On the back of promising literature based out of Wuhan China, Fauci and The Coronavirus Task Force are looking into antibody research as a viable way to curb COVID-19’s mortality rate as well as the rising number of patients enduring severe manifestations of the disease.
The ten patients who took part in the Chinese study published in The Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences evidenced extraordinary benefits after receiving a convalescent plasma (CP) transfusion.
One patient, who was placed on a ventilator with a critically low blood oxygen level, tested negative for infection one day after receiving CP. Moreover, his body’s inflammation levels decreased and his blood-oxygen level rose to 90%. The following day, he was weaned off of the ventilation machine he had been placed on a few days after being administered. .
More broadly, all ten patients were no longer critically ill within one to three days of receiving a plasma transfusion.
Saying nothing of the potential of convalescent plasma, it is still not categorically known if persons previously infected by SARS-Cov-2 remain susceptible to the virus and the ensuing respiratory disease.
If herd immunity meets immunogen therapeutics in the next few months, researchers may be able to neutralize the pandemic and prevent a second wave of destruction.