Estimating the Number of Hidden COVID-19 Cases

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Cases of COVID-19 have gone undetected due to factors such as volume of virus testing, asymptomatic patients, incorrect self-diagnosis, or failure to disclose to a health authority. Undetected cases may drive community infections and reduce the effectiveness of control measures. In order to investigate the rates of under-reporting of COVID-19 in Canada, CANSSI members will be adapting their methods from wildlife ecology to better quantify the real scope of this pandemic. This project is led by Laura Cowen, Junling Ma and Pauline van den Driessche, who are all from the University of Victoria.

Currently, only people with symptoms are being tested for COVID-19, which likely means there are hidden cases in Canada due to the current testing approach. By adapting hidden-population methods, which are used in studies that involve injection drug users and the homeless population, this team aims to uncover more data about hidden COVID-19 cases. This will enable health authorities to make more informed public health policies in the current and future waves of COVID-19. Understanding the scope of this disease is vital in assessing current health care and social responses. This work can also be used to better understand under-reporting of future pandemics.

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