The number of COVID cases in Canada could be way higher than previously thought
The number of COVID-19 cases in Canada could be higher than current reports indicate, according to new antibody blood-testing data conducted by Public Health Ontario.
The study suggests that approximately 160,000 people in Ontario have contracted COVID-19 between March and June — more than four times the number reported by officials.
The estimates were obtained by analyzing 8,902 blood samples, with about one per cent testing positive for COVID-19.
Today, @PublicHealthON released the initial results of its #COVID19 Serosurveillance initiative.#CITF congratulates PHO on these first results and is proud to have provided support through the purchase and procurement of 30,000 antibody tests. https://t.co/HnIfyfimaS— COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (@COVIDimmunityTF) July 31, 2020
So why is the actual tally of COVID-19 infections in Ontario higher than previously thought?
Unsurprisingly, a lot of it comes down to testing; certain Ontario residents might find it more difficult to access testing centres, which means that fewer people are able to get results.
Alternatively, Canadians that contract COVID-19 but don't show any symptoms could simply be unaware that they're sick in the first place.
But it's not all bad news; although four times the amount of infections may seem like a large number, it's actually much smaller than other regions outside of Canada.
In New York City, for example, data from antibody blood surveys has estimated that the actual rate of infection is about 12 times higher than reported COVID-19 case counts.
Meanwhile in Missouri, estimates suggest the actual case count is a staggering 24 times higher than reported cases.
Dr. Timothy Evans, executive director of Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), suggests the actual infection rate in other countries is 10 to 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases.
Although the CITF has yet to release comprehensive results on reported COVID-19 cases versus actual cases in Canada, an early study in partnership with the Canadian Blood Services revealed that there's likely a discrepancy.
Preliminary findings indicate that fewer than one per cent of the 10,000 samples from blood donors tested positive for the virus.
Moreover, the study indicates that many more adult Canadians are infected with COVID-19 than currently documented, according to CITF Co-Chair Professor David Naylor.
"These data suggest there are several undetected infections for every case confirmed with swabs and RNA tests," Naylor said.
He encouraged Canadians to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, wash their hands often, and practice physical distancing.
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