April 2020: Testing site for Fairbanks study on COVID-19. (photo courtesy: IU/Liz Kaye)
Dr. Nir Menachemi leads a team from the Fairbanks School of Public Health on a COVID-19 study.
The initial results of a study conducted by the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI revealed nearly half of all Hoosiers who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no signs of the disease.
“44.8% of those tested positive for active viral infections, but reported no symptoms,” said Dr. Nir Menachemi, the lead scientist at the Fairbanks School, who oversaw the study. “This was already suspected by experts, but never precisely determined until now.”
During the last week of April, a team from Fairbanks, along with the Indiana State Department of Health, tested approximately 4,600 Hoosiers.
The results were presented Wednesday during Governor Eric Holcomb’s COVID-19 media briefing.
“Of all the positives we had, 45% of people said they had no symptoms at the time they were tested,” said Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health. “That should underscore the importance of why you need to wear that mask and social distance.”
Menachemi said preliminary data suggested 186,000 Hoosiers are currently or were previously infected by late April, while the state of Indiana was aware of only 17,000 cases.
“Suggesting the true impact of the virus was almost 11 times greater than conventional testing had informed us,” explained Menachemi.
The prevalence in the population – the number of people in the general population with the disease – measured at 2.8%.
The study also found participants who reported living with someone who was COVID-19 positive were nearly 12 times more likely to be positive themselves.
“This finding, along with relatively low 2.8 % prevalence, strongly suggests our social distance policies played a critical role in curbing the spread of the virus, by containing it to within households as opposed to within the community,” said Menachemi.
Analysis of the random sample suggests African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations have a higher number of positive cases.
A second wave of testing will take place June 3-7. The research team will be seeking to test another 5,000 Hoosiers for the random sample. Menachemi said the group is not looking for volunteers, but they do urge people who are contacted by the research team to take part in the study.
“As we slowly phase back and reopen the economy, we need to be extra vigilant with any and all safety precautions, so we don’t lose the ground we gained by hunkering down,” Menachemi said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Nir Menachemi will be a guest this weekend on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
View the governor’s briefing in the video below: