A study on coronavirus antibodies in the population of Wuhan conducted in mid-April suggests that the true count of COVID-19 infections may have been ten times higher than the numbers reported by health officials.
Of the 11 million people living in the city, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 4.43% had antibodies to the virus. That percentage amounts to nearly 500,000 people who contracted the new virus, but at the time, the city reported about 50,000 infections.
The CDC study included more than 34,000 people in Wuhan and six nearby provinces. Wuhan is where the virus was first detected almost a year ago.
Outside of Wuhan, the study found that the incidence of antibodies was significantly lower and registered 0.44%. The CDC said the low rate indicated that Wuhan’s disease control measures “effectively prevent the virus from spreading on a large scale,” according to the South China Morning Post.
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The experts told the news office the difference in the number of reported coronavirus infections and the possible number of actual diseases could be due to testing for accidents and struggles early in the outbreak. There were also differences in how cases were counted among health care providers during the first wave.
“Exactly how much we missed, we do not know exactly, but it gives us an idea that we missed quite a lot,” Ian Mackay, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the South China Morning Post .
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It was not clear whether the health agency intended to publish the data in a journal or whether it was being considered for peer review.
On Monday, China sentenced a former lawyer who reported on the early stages of the outbreak to four years in prison. According to the Associated Press, Zhang Zhan is accused of spreading false information, giving false interviews to foreign media, disrupting public order and having the malicious manipulation of the outbreak.
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The country has faced earlier accusations of the true depth of the outbreak in the early stages and possibly spread the virus around the world through delays in sharing information and refusing to allow investigative teams from outside countries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.