Importance: Crowded indoor environments, such as households, are high-risk settings for the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Objectives: To examine evidence for household transmission of SARS-CoV-2, disaggregated by several covariates, and to compare it with other coronaviruses.
Data source: PubMed, searched through October 19, 2020. Search terms included SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 with secondary attack rate, household, close contacts, contact transmission, contact attack rate, or family transmission.
Study selection: All articles with original data for estimating household secondary attack rate were included. Case reports focusing on individual households and studies of close contacts that did not report secondary attack rates for household members were excluded.
Data extraction and synthesis: Meta-analyses were done using a restricted maximum-likelihood estimator model to yield a point estimate and 95% CI for secondary attack rate for each subgroup analyzed, with a random effect for each study. To make comparisons across exposure types, study was treated as a random effect, and exposure type was a fixed moderator. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guideline was followed.
Main outcomes and measures: Secondary attack rate for SARS-CoV-2, disaggregated by covariates (ie, household or family contact, index case symptom status, adult or child contacts, contact sex, relationship to index case, adult or child index cases, index case sex, number of contacts in household) and for other coronaviruses.
Results: A total of 54 relevant studies with 77 758 participants reporting household secondary transmission were identified. Estimated household secondary attack rate was 16.6% (95% CI, 14.0%-19.3%), higher than secondary attack rates for SARS-CoV (7.5%; 95% CI, 4.8%-10.7%) and MERS-CoV (4.7%; 95% CI, 0.9%-10.7%). Household secondary attack rates were increased from symptomatic index cases (18.0%; 95% CI, 14.2%-22.1%) than from asymptomatic index cases (0.7%; 95% CI, 0%-4.9%), to adult contacts (28.3%; 95% CI, 20.2%-37.1%) than to child contacts (16.8%; 95% CI, 12.3%-21.7%), to spouses (37.8%; 95% CI, 25.8%-50.5%) than to other family contacts (17.8%; 95% CI, 11.7%-24.8%), and in households with 1 contact (41.5%; 95% CI, 31.7%-51.7%) than in households with 3 or more contacts (22.8%; 95% CI, 13.6%-33.5%).
Conclusions and relevance: The findings of this study suggest that given that individuals with suspected or confirmed infections are being referred to isolate at home, households will continue to be a significant venue for transmission of SARS-CoV-2.