Background: Mass gatherings (MGs) such as music festivals and sports events have been associated with a high risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. On-site research can foster knowledge of risk factors for infections and improve risk assessments and precautionary measures at future MGs. We tested a web-based participatory disease surveillance tool to detect COVID-19 infections at and after an outdoor MG by collecting self-reported COVID-19 symptoms and tests.
Methods: We conducted a digital prospective observational cohort study among fully immunized attendees of a sports festival that took place from September 2 to 5, 2021 in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Participants used our study app to report demographic data, COVID-19 tests, symptoms, and their contact behavior. This self-reported data was used to define probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases for the full "study period" (08/12/2021 - 10/31/2021) and within the 14-day "surveillance period" during and after the MG, with the highest likelihood of an MG-related COVID-19 outbreak (09/04/2021 - 09/17/2021).
Results: A total of 2,808 of 9,242 (30.4%) event attendees participated in the study. Within the study period, 776 individual symptoms and 5,255 COVID-19 tests were reported. During the 14-day surveillance period around and after the MG, seven probable and seven PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases were detected. The confirmed cases translated to an estimated seven-day incidence of 125 per 100,000 participants (95% CI [67.7/100,000, 223/100,000]), which was comparable to the average age-matched incidence in Germany during this time. Overall, weekly numbers of COVID-19 cases were fluctuating over the study period, with another increase at the end of the study period.
Conclusion: COVID-19 cases attributable to the mass gathering were comparable to the Germany-wide age-matched incidence, implicating that our active participatory disease surveillance tool was able to detect MG-related infections. Further studies are needed to evaluate and apply our participatory disease surveillance tool in other mass gathering settings.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Epidemiology; Infectious diseases; Mass gathering; Mobile app; Participatory disease surveillance; SARS-CoV-2; Syndromic surveillance; Web application.
© 2022. The Author(s).