Evidence for pre-symptomatic transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China

Link to article at PubMed

Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2020 Aug 7. doi: 10.1111/irv.12787. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Between mid-January and early February, provinces of mainland China outside the epicentre in Hubei province were on high alert for importations and transmission of COVID-19. Many properties of COVID-19 infection and transmission were still not yet established.

METHODS: We collated and analysed data on 449 of the earliest COVID-19 cases detected outside Hubei province to make inferences about transmission dynamics and severity of infection. We analysed 64 clusters to make inferences on serial interval and potential role of pre-symptomatic transmission.

RESULTS: We estimated an epidemic doubling time of 5.3 days (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.3, 6.7) and a median incubation period of 4.6 days (95% CI: 4.0, 5.2). We estimated a serial interval distribution with mean 5.7 days (95% CI: 4.7, 6.8) and standard deviation 3.5 days, and effective reproductive number was 1.98 (95% CI: 1.68, 2.35). We estimated that 32/80 (40%) of transmission events were likely to have occurred prior to symptoms onset in primary cases. Secondary cases in clusters had less severe illness on average than cluster primary cases.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of transmissions are occurring around illness onset in an infected person, and pre-symptomatic transmission does play a role. Detection of milder infections among the secondary cases may be more reflective of true disease severity.

PMID:32767657 | DOI:10.1111/irv.12787

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