86 percent of people with coronavirus cases in the U.K. showed no major symptoms

People wear masks on the London Underground.
(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Asymptomatic coronavirus cases may be far more common than we thought.

A survey conducted by the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics revealed 86.1 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 between April and June showed no major symptoms of the disease, including cough, fever, or a loss of taste or smell, on the day they were tested. Around three quarters of those tested showed no symptoms at all, including fatigue or a shortness of breath, raising fears of a "silent transmission" by asymptomatic people, The Guardian reports.

Due to a undersupply of tests, health officials have only suggested getting tested for coronavirus if one shows symptoms or has been around someone with the virus. But with most people asymptomatic, the virus could spread widely without detection before people show severe symptoms.

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"If you are not catching all those who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic it may be really difficult to get outbreaks down in time, before they get out of control," Irene Petersen, an author on a study of the ONS data from University College London, explained. She suggested to The Guardian that high-risk workplaces and universities start ramping up testing now ahead of the holiday season, especially to avoid outbreaks when college students head home.

The ONS tested 36,000 people for the coronavirus, with 115 cases coming back positive.

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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn is a graduate of Syracuse University, with degrees in magazine journalism and information technology, along with hours to earn another degree after working at SU's independent paper The Daily Orange. She's currently recovering from a horse addiction while living in New York City, and likes to share her extremely dry sense of humor on Twitter.