COVID-19 Resource Center
COVID-19 Resource Center
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Disclosures: Please see the study for all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
June 30, 2020
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Less than half of COVID-19 patients report recent contact with infected person

Source/Disclosures
Disclosures: Please see the study for all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Less than half of inpatients and outpatients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection reported recent contact with an infected person, according to survey results published in MMWR.

“Reports documenting exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have generally been described within congregate settings, such as meat and poultry processing plants and long-term care facilities,” the authors wrote. “Understanding individual behaviors and demographic characteristics of patients with COVID-19 and risks for severe illness requiring hospitalization can inform efforts to transmission.”

COVID-19 contact tracing infographic
Source: CDC

The researchers conducted a multistate phone survey of 350 adult outpatients and inpatients with positive test results for SARS-CoV-2. Approximately 45% of participants reported that their contact was a family member, and 34% reported their contact was a work colleague. Additionally, two-thirds of participants reported they were employed, and only 17% reported being able to perform telework.

Outpatients reported being employed more often than inpatients (70% vs. 42%, respectively), and 25% of employed participants worked in health care. Just 46% were aware of close contact with a COVID-19 patient, underlining “a need for increased screening, case investigation, contact tracing and isolation of infected persons during periods of community transmission,” the authors wrote.

One-third of symptomatic outpatients reported not returning to baseline health 14 to 21 days following testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 compared with nearly all outpatients who, in an earlier study, reported returning to normal activity within 2 weeks of illness onset during the 2012-2013 influenza season, the researchers noted.

“A range of symptoms should prompt testing for SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote. “The wide range of symptoms reported, and the lack of known COVID-19 contact in 54% of patients, underscores the need for isolation of infected persons, contact tracing and testing during ongoing community transmission, and prevention measures including social distancing and use of cloth face coverings.”