The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has abruptly made some changes to its Coronavirus testing guidelines. As per the update, the U.S. agency no longer recommends testing for people who do not have symptoms of SARS-CoV-2, even if they have recently come in contact with someone who has the virus.
Earlier, CDC said that virus testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected Coronavirus exposure, even if they don't develop symptoms. But now after the changes made in the guidelines, many experts have questioned the revision.
Understanding the seriousness of such recommendations, the healthcare experts have raised questions, as research suggested that almost half of infection transmission can be traced back to people still under the so-called pre-symptomatic stage before they started feeling sick.
Concerns Around the New Recommendation
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, who was previously Baltimore's health commissioner, said, "I'm concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with Covid-19 now doesn't need to get tested."
As per Wen, "this is key to contact tracing," especially given that up to 50 percent of all Coronavirus transmission is due to people who are asymptomatic. The expert also questioned: "One wonders why these guidelines were changed -- is it to justify continued deficit of testing?"
The New York Times reported that according to many experts, a more neglectful approach to testing could delay crucial treatment and could cause doubts about the virus's actual spread in the community.
Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, California called these new changes as "dangerous." She said by making such changes to the testing guidelines, "you're not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease," and it feels like "this is going to make things worse."
A spokesperson at the US Department of Health and Human Services denied that the new guidelines would affect contact tracing efforts and said, "The guidance fully supports public health surveillance testing, done in a proactive way through federal, state, and local public health officials."
What CDC Says
Before the recent update, CDC website said:
Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.
After Monday, August 24 when the U.S. agency changed the guidelines, the website says: "If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms," there is no need for a Coronavirus test "unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one."
The guideline now says that people who don't have novel Coronavirus symptoms and haven't been in close contact with individuals with a known infection, do not need a COVID-19 test.
In addition, the website also says, "If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional."
The CDC says that it is important for people to realize "you can be infected and spread the virus but feel well and have no symptoms," noting that the local healthcare officials might request symptomless healthy individuals be tested, depending in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus in the area.