SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence in a Cohort of International Travellers Returning to Rural Australia: Enablers and Barriers to Containment of COVID-19

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2023 Feb;47(1):100003. doi: 10.1016/j.anzjph.2022.100003. Epub 2023 Jan 19.


Objective: To describe the effectiveness of the public health response to COVID-19 in our local region by documenting detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by nucleic acid testing (NAT) positivity and seroprevalence.

Methods: In this prospective study (ACTRN12620000487910), symptomatic adult international travellers returning to regional Australia in March 2020 underwent SARS-CoV-2 NAT and SARS-CoV-2-specific serology.

Results: Ninety-nine eligible participants were included. Nine participants had laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2, all returning between 16-20 March 2020. Eight (89%) had a positive NAT and seven (78%) had a positive serology test. The majority returned from New Zealand. Participants most frequently presented with cough (100%), headache (66.7%) and sore throat (44.4%). No community cases were detected from 1 March to 30 June 2020.

Conclusions: The study cohort of international travellers returning to regional Australia in March 2020 returned eight positive SARS-CoV-2 NAT results over a five-day window. Serology identified one additional case and was negative in two cases who were PCR positive. Longitudinal data confirmed an absence of local community transmission to 30 June 2020.

Implications for public health: A combination of local, national and environmental factors were necessary to prevent the establishment of community transmission in our local region.

Keywords: Australia; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; epidemiology; serology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rural Population
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies