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There's been more than 24 million cases reported to date. And we need to look at something like this on a population level. And so it's very important that we document this -- and that, in countries that can do this, if sequencing can be done, that would be very, very helpful. But we need to not jump to any conclusions, even if this is the first documented case of reinfection, it is possible of course because with our experience with other human coronaviruses, and the MERS coronavirus and the SARS-CoV-1 coronavirus, we know that people have an antibody response for some time but it may wane.
What I think is really important is that we put this into context, there's been more than 24 million cases reported to date. And we need to look at something like this on a population level. And so it's very important that we document this -- and that, in countries that can do this, if sequencing can be done, that would be very, very helpful. But we need to not jump to any conclusions.
The majority of transmission that we know about is that people who have symptoms transmit the virus to other people through infectious droplets -- but there are a subset of people who don't develop symptoms, and to truly understand how many people don't have symptoms, we don't actually have that answered yet, we do know that some people who are asymptomatic, or some people who don't have symptoms, can transmit the virus on.
When we actually go back and we say how many of them were truly asymptomatic, we find out that many have really mild disease, they're not quote-unquote Covid symptoms -- meaning they may not have developed fever yet, they may not have had a significant cough, or they may not have shortness of breath -- but some may have mild disease.
What I was referring to yesterday in the press conference were very few studies -- some two or three studies that had been published that actually try to follow asymptomatic cases, so people who are infected, over time, and then look at all of their contacts and see how many additional people were infected, and that's a very small subset of studies. So I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn't stating a policy of WHO or anything like that.
The reason that we're updating the guidance is that WHO continuously looks at all available evidence on a variety of topics -- including how this virus is transmitted, how different masks are used in different settings, including health care facilities and outside of health care facilities, what we've done is we're incorporating new research findings and we are providing more practical advice to decision-makers on how to use masks as part of a comprehensive package of measures to suppress transmission and save lives.
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