High coronavirus immunity found in 'super-spreader' Austrian ski resort
General view of Ischgl, Austria
Almost half of the people who live in an Austrian ski resort that was an important center of the European coronavirus outbreak are now immune, according to a new study published on Thursday.
Scientists from the Medical University of Innsbruck found antibodies against the virus in 42.4 percent of the people in Ischgl.
It is one of the highest coronavirus infection rates found worldwide. A similar study in Geneva found antibodies in only 10 percent of the population, compared to 27 percent in Val Gardena, Italy.
"We believe that superspreading events, such as those that took place in après-ski bars, made a significant contribution to the spread," said Prof. Dorothee von Laer, head of the Ischgl study.
The scientists behind the new study claim that it is the highest infection rate in the world. A study in Bergamo published earlier this month found antibodies in 57 percent of people in the Italian city. However, the authors of the Ischgl study claim that their research is based on stricter tests and a larger sample size.
It is believed that the tiny village of just 1,800 people in the Tyrolean Alps was a major cause of the outbreak of Europe when people returned home from their skiing holidays.
Hundreds of infections in Germany, Iceland, Norway and Denmark have been attributed to the resort and linked to suspected cases in the UK.
Packed après-ski bars where people played drinking games where they passed the same ping-pong ball from glass to glass are believed to be the perfect environment for the virus to spread.
Despite the high infection rate, only nine residents of Ischgl had to be hospitalized for the virus and only two died - which means that the death rate in the village was only 0.24 percent.
Research for the new study took place in April after the resort was closed to tourists and quarantined.
The village's infection rate was more than six times higher than previously thought - 85 percent of those found with antibodies had not been diagnosed before and did not know they were infected.
"We assumed a high rate of undocumented cases before the start of the study, and like other hotspots, this has now been confirmed," said Prof. von Laer.
Many of those who have not been diagnosed previously reported losing their taste and smell, a common symptom of the virus.
Although the infection rate was high, it did not reach the 60 to 70 percent required for herd immunity.
A closed après-ski bar can be seen on March 13, 2020 in Ischgl in Tyrol, Austria, as the winter season ends earlier this year due to the coronavirus epidemic. - Austria reinforced its response to corona viruses by announcing the closure of non-essential retail stores, discontinuing flights to France, Spain and Switzerland, and blocking two western communities in Tyrol affected by the corona virus with tourism hotspots such as Ischgl and Galtuer, and Saint Anton am Arlberg . (Photo by JAKOB GRUBER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by JAKOB GRUBER / APA / AFP via Getty Images) - JAKOB GRUBER / AFP
"Even if this does not imply herd immunity, the population of Ischgl should still be largely protected," said Prof. von Laer.
“What is particularly interesting about the results of the study in Ischgl is that the majority of people with antibodies were identified as corona cases only by the study. This underlines the importance of antibody studies, ”said Dr. Peter Willeit, another author of the study.
The study found that the infection rate in children was much lower at 27 percent. Almost none of the children showed symptoms.
A total of 1,473 inhabitants of Ischgl took part in the study, which corresponds to 79 percent of the village population.
The scientists followed a strict procedure. Blood samples have been subjected to at least two antibody tests and, in some cases, tested four times to eliminate false positives.
Police at a roadblock prevent a bus from driving out of the Panznau Valley after a quarantine was imposed on March 14, 2020 near Ischgl, Austria - Getty Images Europe
The authorities in Ischgl are facing legal steps from skiers who say they acted too slowly when the resort closed.
The Austrian government ignored Iceland's warnings that there was a large number of infections in people returning from the resort, and it turned out that local authorities were unable to close the crowded après-ski bars after being hit by virus cases experienced at the resort.
“People were hot and sweaty from skiing, and the waiters delivered hundreds of shots to tables. You couldn't have a better home for a virus, ”said Daren Bland, a British IT consultant who fell ill when he returned from Ischgl to the Telegraph in March
The video received from the Telegraph shows people who are packed shoulder to shoulder and sing Highway to Hell in the popular Kitzloch bar.
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