CDC says teen gave COVID-19 to 11 relatives across 4 states during a family vacation. Experts see a cautionary tale for holidays
A COVID-19 outbreak that infected 11 people in four states began with a 13-year-old girl who transmitted the virus during a three-week family vacation over the summer. This comes from a report by the Centers for Disease Control.
In Illinois - one of the participating states - a Cook County's Department of Health spokeswoman said the community some family members live in is not currently at risk from this particular outbreak, which occurred months ago.
However, the case shows that children and adolescents can contract the virus and spread it, public health experts say. It also serves as a cautionary story ahead of the holiday season, a traditional time for many large family gatherings.
"(The) outbreak highlights several important issues that should be reviewed before the holidays," a Cook County Health Department spokeswoman said in an email.
The CDC noted that the case highlights the risk of exposure during the gatherings, as well as the benefits of social distancing.
"SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can spread efficiently during collection, especially with prolonged, close contact," the CDC report said. “Physical distancing, face mask use, and hand hygiene reduce transmission. Gatherings should be avoided when physical distancing and face masks are not an option. "
The three-week family gathering spanned five households from four states, according to the CDC report released earlier this month. The footnote report mentions health departments in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Georgia. There was no further information on where the family reunion was taking place or in which states various relatives lived.
According to the report, the first patient, a 13-year-old girl, was exposed to COVID-19 during a major outbreak in June. A rapid antigen test four days after her exposure was negative before her symptoms started. Two days later she had a stuffy nose, her only symptom. That day, she was traveling with her parents and two brothers to a large family reunion that, according to the CDC report, began the following day.
She was one of 14 relatives, ages 9 to 72, who shared a five-bedroom, two-bathroom house for eight to 25 days, the report said. According to the report, the relatives did not wear face masks and did not practice physical distancing.
Eleven other family members contracted the virus. One was hospitalized and another went to the emergency room for respiratory treatment, but both recovered, according to the report.
"This outbreak highlights several important issues," the report said. “First, children and adolescents can serve as a source of COVID-19 outbreaks in families, even if their symptoms are mild. A better understanding of transmission by children and adolescents in different settings is needed in order to refine public health guidelines. "
Six other family members did not stay at home, but visited them on various occasions in order to maintain physical distance from relatives in other households. None of these people developed symptoms and four tested negative for the virus, the CDC found.
“None of the six family members who kept physical distance outdoors without a face mask on two visits to the family reunion developed symptoms. The four who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 had negative test results, ”the report said.
Local public health experts added that the report shows the importance of isolating after possible exposure to the virus, even if a COVID-19 test results negative. Rapid antigen tests in particular tend to have lower sensitivity compared to nasal swab and saliva tests, and negative tests should be confirmed with other forms of test when there is a high likelihood of infection, such as known exposure, according to the CDC report.
"Regardless of negative test results, people should quarantine for 14 days after known exposure or travel if required by state, territorial, tribal or local authorities," the Cook County Health Department said.
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