Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and risk factors for susceptibility and infectivity in Wuhan: a retrospective observational study.


This retrospective cohort study included the households of all laboratory-confirmed or clinically confirmed COVID-19 cases and laboratory-confirmed asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections identified by the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention between Dec 2, 2019, and April 18, 2020. We defined households as groups of family members and close relatives who did not necessarily live at the same address and considered households that shared common contacts as epidemiologically linked. We used a statistical transmission model to estimate household secondary attack rates and to quantify risk factors associated with infectivity and susceptibility to infection, accounting for individual-level exposure history. We assessed how intervention policies affected the household reproductive number, defined as the mean number of household contacts a case can infect.

Within households, children and adolescents were less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection but were more infectious than older individuals. Presymptomatic cases were more infectious and individuals with asymptomatic infection less infectious than symptomatic cases. These findings have implications for devising interventions for blocking household transmission of SARS-CoV-2, such as timely vaccination of eligible children once resources become available.

27 101 households with 29 578 primary cases and 57 581 household contacts were identified. The secondary attack rate estimated with the transmission model was 15·6% (95% CI 15·2-16·0), assuming a mean incubation period of 5 days and a maximum infectious period of 22 days. Individuals aged 60 years or older were at a higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 than all other age groups. Infants aged 0-1 years were significantly more likely to be infected than children aged 2-5 years (odds ratio [OR] 2·20, 95% CI 1·40-3·44) and children aged 6-12 years (1·53, 1·01-2·34). Given the same exposure time, children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age were more likely to infect others than were adults aged 60 years or older (1·58, 1·28-1·95). Asymptomatic individuals were much less likely to infect others than were symptomatic cases (0·21, 0·14-0·31). Symptomatic cases were more likely to infect others before symptom onset than after (1·42, 1·30-1·55). After mass isolation of cases, quarantine of household contacts, and restriction of movement policies were implemented, household reproductive numbers declined by 52% among primary cases (from 0·25 [95% CI 0·24-0·26] to 0·12 [0·10-0·13]) and by 63% among secondary cases (from 0·17 [0·16-0·18] to 0·063 [0·057-0·070]).

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, US National Institutes of Health, and US National Science Foundation.

Wuhan was the first epicentre of COVID-19 in the world, accounting for 80% of cases in China during the first wave. We aimed to assess household transmissibility of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and risk factors associated with infectivity and susceptibility to infection in Wuhan.

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