Household Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Aug 16;ciaa1166. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1166. Online ahead of print.


Background: Although many viral respiratory illnesses are transmitted within households, the evidence base for SARS-CoV-2 is nascent. We sought to characterize SARS-CoV-2 transmission within US households and estimate the household secondary infection rate (SIR) to inform strategies to reduce transmission.

Methods: We recruited laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients and their household contacts in Utah and Wisconsin during March 22-April 25, 2020. We interviewed patients and all household contacts to obtain demographics and medical histories. At the initial household visit, 14 days later, and when a household contact became newly symptomatic, we collected respiratory swabs from patients and household contacts for testing by SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR and sera for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies testing by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We estimated SIR and odds ratios (OR) to assess risk factors for secondary infection, defined by a positive rRT-PCR or ELISA test.

Results: Thirty-two (55%) of 58 households had evidence of secondary infection among household contacts. The SIR was 29% (n = 55/188; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 23-36%) overall, 42% among children (<18 years) of the COVID-19 patient and 33% among spouses/partners. Household contacts to COVID-19 patients with immunocompromised conditions had increased odds of infection (OR: 15.9, 95% CI: 2.4-106.9). Household contacts who themselves had diabetes mellitus had increased odds of infection (OR: 7.1, 95% CI: 1.2-42.5).

Conclusions: We found substantial evidence of secondary infections among household contacts. People with COVID-19, particularly those with immunocompromising conditions or those with household contacts with diabetes, should take care to promptly self-isolate to prevent household transmission.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; contact tracing; household; transmission.