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

      research-article
      , R.N., , M.S.P.H., , M.D., , M.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , M.D., , M.D., , Ph.D., , M.Med., , M.D., , M.S., , M.P.H., , M.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , Ph.D., , R.N., , M.S.N., , M.P.H., , D.V.M., , M.D., , M.P.H., , M.D., , M.D., , Ph.D., , M.D., , M.D. *
      The New England Journal of Medicine
      Massachusetts Medical Society
      Keyword part (code): 12Keyword part (keyword): Pulmonary/Critical CareKeyword part (code): 12_1Keyword part (keyword): Pulmonary/Critical Care General , 12, Pulmonary/Critical Care, Keyword part (code): 12_1Keyword part (keyword): Pulmonary/Critical Care General, 12_1, Pulmonary/Critical Care General, Keyword part (code): 15Keyword part (keyword): Geriatrics/AgingKeyword part (code): 15_1Keyword part (keyword): Geriatrics/Aging General , 15, Geriatrics/Aging, Keyword part (code): 15_1Keyword part (keyword): Geriatrics/Aging General, 15_1, Geriatrics/Aging General, Keyword part (code): 18Keyword part (keyword): Infectious DiseaseKeyword part (code): 18_1Keyword part (keyword): Infectious Disease GeneralKeyword part (code): 18_9Keyword part (keyword): Global HealthKeyword part (code): 18_10Keyword part (keyword): DiagnosticsKeyword part (code): 18_11Keyword part (keyword): Influenza , 18, Infectious Disease, Keyword part (code): 18_1Keyword part (keyword): Infectious Disease GeneralKeyword part (code): 18_9Keyword part (keyword): Global HealthKeyword part (code): 18_10Keyword part (keyword): DiagnosticsKeyword part (code): 18_11Keyword part (keyword): Influenza , 18_1, Infectious Disease General, 18_9, Global Health, 18_10, Diagnostics, 18_11, Influenza

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          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.

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          Most cited references13

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          First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States

          Summary An outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that began in Wuhan, China, has spread rapidly, with cases now confirmed in multiple countries. We report the first case of 2019-nCoV infection confirmed in the United States and describe the identification, diagnosis, clinical course, and management of the case, including the patient’s initial mild symptoms at presentation with progression to pneumonia on day 9 of illness. This case highlights the importance of close coordination between clinicians and public health authorities at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as the need for rapid dissemination of clinical information related to the care of patients with this emerging infection.
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            SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in Upper Respiratory Specimens of Infected Patients

            To the Editor: The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic, which was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization, may progress to a pandemic associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. SARS-CoV-2 is genetically related to SARS-CoV, which caused a global epidemic with 8096 confirmed cases in more than 25 countries in 2002–2003. 1 The epidemic of SARS-CoV was successfully contained through public health interventions, including case detection and isolation. Transmission of SARS-CoV occurred mainly after days of illness 2 and was associated with modest viral loads in the respiratory tract early in the illness, with viral loads peaking approximately 10 days after symptom onset. 3 We monitored SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in upper respiratory specimens obtained from 18 patients (9 men and 9 women; median age, 59 years; range, 26 to 76) in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, including 4 patients with secondary infections (1 of whom never had symptoms) within two family clusters (Table S1 in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this letter at NEJM.org). The patient who never had symptoms was a close contact of a patient with a known case and was therefore monitored. A total of 72 nasal swabs (sampled from the mid-turbinate and nasopharynx) (Figure 1A) and 72 throat swabs (Figure 1B) were analyzed, with 1 to 9 sequential samples obtained from each patient. Polyester flock swabs were used for all the patients. From January 7 through January 26, 2020, a total of 14 patients who had recently returned from Wuhan and had fever (≥37.3°C) received a diagnosis of Covid-19 (the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2) by means of reverse-transcriptase–polymerase-chain-reaction assay with primers and probes targeting the N and Orf1b genes of SARS-CoV-2; the assay was developed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Samples were tested at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen of 14 patients with imported cases had evidence of pneumonia on computed tomography (CT). None of them had visited the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan within 14 days before symptom onset. Patients E, I, and P required admission to intensive care units, whereas the others had mild-to-moderate illness. Secondary infections were detected in close contacts of Patients E, I, and P. Patient E worked in Wuhan and visited his wife (Patient L), mother (Patient D), and a friend (Patient Z) in Zhuhai on January 17. Symptoms developed in Patients L and D on January 20 and January 22, respectively, with viral RNA detected in their nasal and throat swabs soon after symptom onset. Patient Z reported no clinical symptoms, but his nasal swabs (cycle threshold [Ct] values, 22 to 28) and throat swabs (Ct values, 30 to 32) tested positive on days 7, 10, and 11 after contact. A CT scan of Patient Z that was obtained on February 6 was unremarkable. Patients I and P lived in Wuhan and visited their daughter (Patient H) in Zhuhai on January 11 when their symptoms first developed. Fever developed in Patient H on January 17, with viral RNA detected in nasal and throat swabs on day 1 after symptom onset. We analyzed the viral load in nasal and throat swabs obtained from the 17 symptomatic patients in relation to day of onset of any symptoms (Figure 1C). Higher viral loads (inversely related to Ct value) were detected soon after symptom onset, with higher viral loads detected in the nose than in the throat. Our analysis suggests that the viral nucleic acid shedding pattern of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 resembles that of patients with influenza 4 and appears different from that seen in patients infected with SARS-CoV. 3 The viral load that was detected in the asymptomatic patient was similar to that in the symptomatic patients, which suggests the transmission potential of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic patients. These findings are in concordance with reports that transmission may occur early in the course of infection 5 and suggest that case detection and isolation may require strategies different from those required for the control of SARS-CoV. How SARS-CoV-2 viral load correlates with culturable virus needs to be determined. Identification of patients with few or no symptoms and with modest levels of detectable viral RNA in the oropharynx for at least 5 days suggests that we need better data to determine transmission dynamics and inform our screening practices.
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              Temporal profiles of viral load in posterior oropharyngeal saliva samples and serum antibody responses during infection by SARS-CoV-2: an observational cohort study

              Summary Background Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) causes severe community and nosocomial outbreaks. Comprehensive data for serial respiratory viral load and serum antibody responses from patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are not yet available. Nasopharyngeal and throat swabs are usually obtained for serial viral load monitoring of respiratory infections but gathering these specimens can cause discomfort for patients and put health-care workers at risk. We aimed to ascertain the serial respiratory viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in posterior oropharyngeal (deep throat) saliva samples from patients with COVID-19, and serum antibody responses. Methods We did a cohort study at two hospitals in Hong Kong. We included patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. We obtained samples of blood, urine, posterior oropharyngeal saliva, and rectal swabs. Serial viral load was ascertained by reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Antibody levels against the SARS-CoV-2 internal nucleoprotein (NP) and surface spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) were measured using EIA. Whole-genome sequencing was done to identify possible mutations arising during infection. Findings Between Jan 22, 2020, and Feb 12, 2020, 30 patients were screened for inclusion, of whom 23 were included (median age 62 years [range 37–75]). The median viral load in posterior oropharyngeal saliva or other respiratory specimens at presentation was 5·2 log10 copies per mL (IQR 4·1–7·0). Salivary viral load was highest during the first week after symptom onset and subsequently declined with time (slope −0·15, 95% CI −0·19 to −0·11; R 2=0·71). In one patient, viral RNA was detected 25 days after symptom onset. Older age was correlated with higher viral load (Spearman's ρ=0·48, 95% CI 0·074–0·75; p=0·020). For 16 patients with serum samples available 14 days or longer after symptom onset, rates of seropositivity were 94% for anti-NP IgG (n=15), 88% for anti-NP IgM (n=14), 100% for anti-RBD IgG (n=16), and 94% for anti-RBD IgM (n=15). Anti-SARS-CoV-2-NP or anti-SARS-CoV-2-RBD IgG levels correlated with virus neutralisation titre (R 2>0·9). No genome mutations were detected on serial samples. Interpretation Posterior oropharyngeal saliva samples are a non-invasive specimen more acceptable to patients and health-care workers. Unlike severe acute respiratory syndrome, patients with COVID-19 had the highest viral load near presentation, which could account for the fast-spreading nature of this epidemic. This finding emphasises the importance of stringent infection control and early use of potent antiviral agents, alone or in combination, for high-risk individuals. Serological assay can complement RT-qPCR for diagnosis. Funding Richard and Carol Yu, May Tam Mak Mei Yin, The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong, Michael Tong, Marina Lee, Government Consultancy Service, and Sanming Project of Medicine.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                N Engl J Med
                N. Engl. J. Med
                nejm
                The New England Journal of Medicine
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                24 April 2020
                Affiliations
                From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Emergency Response (M.M.A., K.M.H., S.C.R., A.K., A.J., J.R.J., J.T., K.S., A.C.B., L.P.O., S. Tanwar, J.W.D., J. Harney, Z.C., J.M.B., M.M., P.P., C.M.C., H.P.M.L., N.T., S. Tong, A.T., Y.T., A.U., J. Harcourt, N.D.S., T.A.C., M.A.H., J.A.J.), and the Epidemic Intelligence Service (M.M.A., A.K., A.J., J.T., A.C.B., L.P.O., S. Tanwar, J.W.D.) and the Laboratory Leadership Service (J.R.J., C.M.C.), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — all in Atlanta; and Public Health — Seattle & King County (S.C., C.B.-S., L.C.P., M.K., J.L., J.S.D.) and the University of Washington, Department of Medicine (J.S.D.), Seattle, the Washington State Public Health Laboratory, Shoreline (J.S.D.), and the Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater (P.M.) — all in Washington.
                Author notes
                Address reprint requests to Dr. Jernigan at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd., Mailstop A-31, Atlanta, GA 30333, or at jqj9@ 123456cdc.gov .
                [*]

                A complete list of the investigators is included in the Supplementary Appendix, available at NEJM.org.

                Ms. Arons and Ms. Hatfield contributed equally to this article.

                Article
                NJ202004243820005
                10.1056/NEJMoa2008457
                7200056
                32329971
                f8830348-c15c-4c4b-9a5d-a3add06c6d84
                Copyright © 2020 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted re-use, except commercial resale, and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgment of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic or until revoked in writing. Upon expiration of these permissions, PMC is granted a license to make this article available via PMC and Europe PMC, subject to existing copyright protections.

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