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Comparative analysis of asymptomatic infection prevalence in beta, delta, and omicron surges of COVID-19.

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has had a devastating impact on the global population, with an estimated 650 million people infected and more than 6.6 million lives lost. Asymptomatic individuals have been shown to play a significant role in the transmission of the virus. Therefore, this study aims to investigate and compare the prevalence of asymptomatic individuals across three waves associated with the Beta, Delta, and omicron variants of the virus.

METHODS: This retrospective study was conducted between December 2020 and March 2022. The study population consisted of passengers on international flights who were referred to the Gerash Clinical and Molecular Diagnosis Laboratory. Real-time PCR was employed for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2.

RESULTS: Out of a total of 8592 foreign travelers referred to our laboratory, 139 (1.16 %) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection and were asymptomatic. During the Beta surge, 35 (1.49 %) out of 2335 passengers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. In the Delta surge, 31 (0.6 %) out of 5127 passengers tested positive. However, during the Omicron surge, a significantly higher number of passengers, specifically 73 (6.46 %) out of 1130, had a positive result for the SARS-CoV-2 test.

CONCLUSION: Considering the significant role of asymptomatic transmission in the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative to reconsider health policies when dealing with future surges of the Omicron subvariants. Additionally, we strongly recommend that the World Health Organization prioritize the development and distribution of second-generation vaccines that target not only disease but also infection prevention.

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