Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Transmission in a Skilled Nursing Facility

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Title

Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Transmission in a Skilled Nursing Facility

Description

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection can spread rapidly within skilled nursing facilities. After identification of a case of Covid-19 in a skilled nursing facility, we assessed transmission and evaluated the adequacy of symptom-based screening to identify infections in residents.

Date Last Updated (Year-Month-Day)

2020-04-24

Citation

Arons, Melissa M., Kelly M. Hatfield, Sujan C. Reddy, Anne Kimball, Allison James, Jesica R. Jacobs, Joanne Taylor, Kevin Spicer, Ana C. Bardossy, Lisa P. Oakley, Sukarma Tanwar, Jonathan W. Dyal, Josh Harney, Zeshan Chisty, Jeneita M. Bell, Mark Methner, Prabasaj Paul, Christina M. Carlson, Heather P. McLaughlin, Natalie Thornburg, Suxiang Tong, Azaibi Tamin, Ying Tao, Anna Uehara, Jennifer Harcourt, Shauna Clark, Claire Brostrom-Smith, Libby C. Page, Meagan Kay, James Lewis, Patty Montgomery, Nimalie D. Stone, Thomas A. Clark, Margaret A. Honein, Jeffrey S. Duchin, and John A. Jernigan. 2020. "Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Transmission in a Skilled Nursing Facility." New England Journal of Medicine.

Abstract

Background

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection can spread rapidly within skilled nursing facilities. After identification of a case of Covid-19 in a skilled nursing facility, we assessed transmission and evaluated the adequacy of symptom-based screening to identify infections in residents.

Methods

We conducted two serial point-prevalence surveys, 1 week apart, in which assenting residents of the facility underwent nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal testing for SARS-CoV-2, including real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR), viral culture, and sequencing. Symptoms that had been present during the preceding 14 days were recorded. Asymptomatic residents who tested positive were reassessed 7 days later. Residents with SARS-CoV-2 infection were categorized as symptomatic with typical symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath), symptomatic with only atypical symptoms, presymptomatic, or asymptomatic.

Results

Twenty-three days after the first positive test result in a resident at this skilled nursing facility, 57 of 89 residents (64%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Among 76 residents who participated in point-prevalence surveys, 48 (63%) tested positive. Of these 48 residents, 27 (56%) were asymptomatic at the time of testing; 24 subsequently developed symptoms (median time to onset, 4 days). Samples from these 24 presymptomatic residents had a median rRT-PCR cycle threshold value of 23.1, and viable virus was recovered from 17 residents. As of April 3, of the 57 residents with SARS-CoV-2 infection, 11 had been hospitalized (3 in the intensive care unit) and 15 had died (mortality, 26%). Of the 34 residents whose specimens were sequenced, 27 (79%) had sequences that fit into two clusters with a difference of one nucleotide.

Conclusions

Rapid and widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was demonstrated in this skilled nursing facility. More than half of residents with positive test results were asymptomatic at the time of testing and most likely contributed to transmission. Infection-control strategies focused solely on symptomatic residents were not sufficient to prevent transmission after SARS-CoV-2 introduction into this facility.

Accessibility

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