Video Abstract (AI generated) (01:52)PaperPreprint
BackgroundHousehold attack rates of SARS-CoV-2 ranging from 7% to 38% have been reported, using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of respiratory samples. Lower attack rates were described in children, but the importance of age in household transmission dynamics remains to be clarified.
MethodsDuring the first month of the outbreak, we enrolled 112 households (291 participants) in a prospective case-ascertained study, collecting demographic and clinical data from index cases and household members. Sera were collected 6-8 weeks after index case symptom onset, to measure SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies.
FindingsT Local Ethics Committee (#118664). he overall household attack rate was 45% assessed by seroconversion, and 47% when also including RT-PCR positives. Serology identified a significantly higher number of infected household members than RT-PCR. Attack rates were equally high in children (43%) and young adults (46%), but highest among household members aged [≥]60 years (72%). The attack rate was 16% in asymptomatic household members, and 42% in RT-PCR negative household members. Older adults generally had higher antibody titres than younger adults. The risk of household transmission was higher when the index case had fever or dyspnoea during acute illness but not associated with cough.
InterpretationSerological assays provide more accurate estimates of household secondary attack rate than RT-PCR, especially among children who have a lower RT-PCR positivity rate. Children are equally susceptible to infection as adults, but elderly show higher attack rates. Negative RT-PCR or lack of symptoms are not sufficient to rule out infection in household members.
FundingHelse Vest (F-11628), Trond Mohn Foundation (TMS2020TMT05).