Almost 500,000 residents in Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic originated, may have been infected with the deadly bug – nearly 10 times the recorded tally, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
A study by the agency used a sample of 34,000 people in the central China metropolis of some 1 million residents and other cities in Hubei province, as well as Beijing, Shanghai and several other provinces to estimate the infection rates, CNN reported.
About 4.4 percent of those tested in Wuhan – which had reported a total of 50,354 confirmed cases, according to the city’s Municipal Health Commission — were found to have specific antibodies that can fight the virus.
The study sought to estimate the scope of previous infections in a population by testing blood serum samples for antibodies from a pool of people.
It was conducted in April — a month after China “contained the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic” — and the results were released Monday, according to CNN.
The prevalence rate outside of Wuhan is markedly lower, the study showed. In other cities in Hubei, the province that includes the capital city, only 0.44 percent of residents studied were found to have the antibodies.
Outside Hubei, antibodies were only detected in two people among the more than 12,000 surveyed.
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the study underscores underreporting in infections at the height of the outbreak in Wuhan — partly due to chaos and a failure to include asymptomatic cases.
Huang said the much lower rates in other Chinese cities suggest “Chinese containment efforts were indeed speedy and effective, especially compared to cities like New York.”
The Chinese CDC highlighted the country’s victory in containing the virus when releasing the results Monday.
“The results of the study show that our country’s population has a low infection rate. It indicates that China has succeeded in controlling the epidemic with Wuhan as the main battlefield, and effectively controlled the large-scale spread of the epidemic,” it said.