Can some people be carriers of an illness without ever appearing sick?
Infections are transmitted by what we commonly refer to as “germs,” including bacteria and viruses.
Some germs can cause asymptomatic infection, which means that the person can have the “germ” in their body, but they don’t have any symptoms of the disease or they have very mild symptoms and don’t really feel sick, according to the Division of Infectious Diseases at UAMS.
One example of an illness like this is Hepatitis C, which is common in the US with more than 200,000 cases per year. With Hep C, most patients have no symptoms. It is spread by blood products (like dirty needles or unscreened blood) or from a mother to baby. Another example is zika virus, which is spread from animal or insect bites or stings and passed between people by unprotected sexual contact.
As for common viruses that cause colds, people can transmit these viruses even if they have mild or minimal symptoms themselves. In this case, they’re considered asymptomatic carriers. They usually don’t have the virus in their system for a prolonged period of time, but just long enough to spread it to someone else.
So, yes—people can carry a disease or illness without showing obvious symptoms, and they can spread them as well. That’s why we encourage everyone to visit their primary care doctor regularly for standard tests and screenings and to always wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. You can never have hands that are “too clean”!
To learn more about the personalized care provided by our doctors using state-of-the-art equipment and technology, please visit one of our primary care clinics.