Amid the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, several Indian cities (including Pune and Gurugram among others) have reinstated the lockdown to further curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. And while we are considering staying at home as our best bet to do so, a recent study has suggested that the virus is easily spread within families.
According to a study by South Korean epidemiologists, people are more likely to contract the infection from members of their own households than from the contacts outside. The study was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health institute in the United States, on July 16. It analysed 5,706 COVID-19 ‘index patients’ (the first identified cases) in South Korea and 59,073 people who came in contact with them between January 20 and March 27, 2020.
Explaining the process, it said, "All reported COVID-19 patients were tested using reverse transcription PCR, and case information was sent to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (public health institute in South Korea). Contacts in high-risk groups (household contacts of COVID-19 patients, healthcare personnel) were routinely tested; in non-high-risk groups, only symptomatic persons were tested. Non-high-risk asymptomatic contacts had to self-quarantine for 14 days and were placed under twice-daily active surveillance by public health workers."
"We defined a household contact as a person who lived in the household of a COVID-19 patient and a non-household contact as a person who did not reside in the same household as a confirmed COVID-19 patient," the report further said.
The findings of the study showed that only two out of the 100 infected people had caught the virus from non-household contacts, whereas one in ten were infected by their own family members.
Furthermore, by age group, the infection rate within the family was higher if the index patients were teenagers or people above 60 years of age. Director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the authors of the study Jeong Eun-kyeong said, "This is probably because these age groups are more likely to be in close contact with family members as the group is in more need of protection or support."
The study also revealed that children younger than 10 transmit to others much less than the adults do, but the risk is not zero. However, those between the ages of 10-19 can spread the virus as much as the adults. Therefore, experts suggested that schools shouldn’t be reopened as a part of mitigation strategies. The report read, "A contact survey in Wuhan and Shanghai, China, showed that school closure and social distancing significantly reduced the rate of COVID-19 among contacts of school-aged children."
The study, for the time being, has suggested the use of personal protective measures and social distancing norms to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
India is now the third-worst affected country in the world and nothing seems to be stopping the spread of the virus. Several pharmaceutical companies are racing towards coming up with a vaccine for the virus but given the current situation, uncertainty over a successful cure for COVID-19 looms large. Here’s hoping we find a way soon!