Role of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases in Viral Transmission : Findings From a Hierarchical Community Contact Network Model

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Online published3 Sep 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 3 Sep 2021


As part of ongoing efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, understanding the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission system is essential for infection control. However, the optimal approach to risk assessment and management of asymptomatic cases remains unclear. This study proposed a Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, No symptoms, Hospitalized and reported, Recovered, Death (SEINRHD) epidemic propagation model. The model was constructed based on epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19 in China and accounting for the heterogeneity of social contact networks. The early community outbreaks in Wuhan were reconstructed and fitted with the actual data. We used this model to assess epidemic control measures for asymptomatic cases in three dimensions. The impact of asymptomatic cases on epidemic propagation was examined based on the effective reproduction number, abnormally high transmission events, and type and structure of transmission. Management of asymptomatic cases can help flatten the infection curve. Tracing 75% of the asymptomatic cases corresponds to a 32.5% overall reduction in new cases (compared with tracing no asymptomatic cases). Regardless of population-wide measures, household transmission is higher than other types of transmission, accounting for an estimated 50% of all cases. The magnitude of tracing of asymptomatic cases is more important than the timing; when all symptomatic patients were traced, tested, and isolated in a timely manner, the overall epidemic was not sensitive to the time of implementing the measures to trace asymptomatic patients. Disease control and prevention within families should be emphasized during an epidemic.

Research Area(s)

  • Asymptomatic patients, COVID-19, Data models, epidemic rebound, Epidemics, Mathematical model, Social networking (online), Sociology, Statistics, strategy evaluation, transmission model.

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