Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2: a systematic review and meta-analysis of secondary attack rate

medRxiv. 2020 Jul 31;2020.07.29.20164590. doi: 10.1101/2020.07.29.20164590. Preprint


Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is spread by direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people via infected respiratory droplets or saliva. Crowded indoor environments with sustained close contact and conversations are a particularly high-risk setting.

Methods: We performed a meta-analysis through July 29, 2020 of SARS-CoV-2 household secondary attack rate (SAR), disaggregating by several covariates (contact type, symptom status, adult/child contacts, contact sex, relationship to index case, index case sex, number of contacts in household, coronavirus).

Findings: We identified 40 relevant published studies that report household secondary transmission. The estimated overall household SAR was 18.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 15.4%-22.2%), which is higher than previously observed SARs for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We observed that household SARs were significantly higher from symptomatic index cases than asymptomatic index cases, to adult contacts than children contacts, to spouses than other family contacts, and in households with one contact than households with three or more contacts.

Interpretation: To prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, people are being asked to stay at home worldwide. With suspected or confirmed infections referred to isolate at home, household transmission will continue to be a significant source of transmission.

Publication types

  • Preprint