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The CDC Says You May Have Had Coronavirus and Not Known It

It is likely that nearly 25 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 

It has been six months since the first known cases of COVID-19 surfaced in December 2019 in Wuhan, China and started devastating the world in unimaginable ways. As of June 26, there have been 2.47 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States alone. However, according to the top CDC official, the number of people actually infected is likely ten times that. 

According to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is likely that a mere 10% of people infected with the virus are actually included in that number, due to the fact that the majority of cases went undetected. 

As antibody tests are being examined from around the country, the CDC has determined that an overwhelming number of people were infected with the virus, but for a variety of reasons, never received an official diagnosis. 

"A good rough estimate now is 10 to 1," Redfield admitted during a media briefing.

Using today's statistics, that would mean that nearly 25 million Americans—24.7 million to be exact—have already been infected with coronavirus. 

It Was "Under Estimated"

"The traditional approach of looking for symptomatic illness, and diagnoses obviously underestimated the total number of infections," Redfield said. "Now that serology tests are available, which test for antibodies, the estimates we have right now show about 10 times more people have antibodies in the jurisdictions tested than had documented infections."

One of the main reasons our numbers are so off has to do with initial testing limitations. Due to the fact that very few tests were available, only people who were seriously ill and experiencing the common coronavirus symptoms — fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue — were even eligible for testing. For example, officials didn't "aggressively pursue diagnostics in young asymptomatic individuals" initially. Months later, health experts have learned that the majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 are either asymptomatic or only experience mild symptoms, explains Redfield. 

"I think obviously we're seeing right now infections that are targeting younger individuals," Redfield pointed out, noting the significance of asymptomatic spread. 

"I remain concerned about trying to understand the effective public-health messaging that we need to get to those individuals that are under the age of 35 or 40 — where the impact and consequences of COVID-19 on them may not be highly associated with hospitalization and death," he added. "They do act as a transmission connector for individuals that could be at higher risk." 

"How much of what we're seeing now was occurring and was just unrecognized?" he said. 

Between 5% to 8% Have Been Infected

He estimates that between 5% and 8% of Americans have already been infected with coronavirus, varying by region. For example, in New York, which emerged early in the pandemic as the country's epicenter, there should be an overwhelmingly higher percentage of people with past infections than other states in the west, which dodged major outbreaks in the beginning of the pandemic. 

Check these Subtle Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus but don't assume you are in the 10%. Redfield reminds us that 90% or more of the population does not have antibodies, which means they are still fully susceptible to the virus. Continue to wear your face mask, wash your hands regularly, practice social distancing and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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