Pediatric and Young Adult Household Transmission of the Initial Waves of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States: Administrative Claims Study

J Med Internet Res. 2024 Jan 4:26:e44249. doi: 10.2196/44249.


Background: The correlates responsible for the temporal changes of intrahousehold SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the United States have been understudied mainly due to a lack of available surveillance data. Specifically, early analyses of SARS-CoV-2 household secondary attack rates (SARs) were small in sample size and conducted cross-sectionally at single time points. From these limited data, it has been difficult to assess the role that different risk factors have had on intrahousehold disease transmission in different stages of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in children and youth.

Objective: This study aimed to estimate the transmission dynamic and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 among pediatric and young adult index cases (age 0 to 25 years) in the United States through the initial waves of the pandemic.

Methods: Using administrative claims, we analyzed 19 million SARS-CoV-2 test records between January 2020 and February 2021. We identified 36,241 households with pediatric index cases and calculated household SARs utilizing complete case information. Using a retrospective cohort design, we estimated the household SARS-CoV-2 transmission between 4 index age groups (0 to 4 years, 5 to 11 years, 12 to 17 years, and 18 to 25 years) while adjusting for sex, family size, quarter of first SARS-CoV-2 positive record, and residential regions of the index cases.

Results: After filtering all household records for greater than one member in a household and missing information, only 36,241 (0.85%) of 4,270,130 households with a pediatric case remained in the analysis. Index cases aged between 0 and 17 years were a minority of the total index cases (n=11,484, 11%). The overall SAR of SARS-CoV-2 was 23.04% (95% CI 21.88-24.19). As a comparison, the SAR for all ages (0 to 65+ years) was 32.4% (95% CI 32.1-32.8), higher than the SAR for the population between 0 and 25 years of age. The highest SAR of 38.3% was observed in April 2020 (95% CI 31.6-45), while the lowest SAR of 15.6% was observed in September 2020 (95% CI 13.9-17.3). It consistently decreased from 32% to 21.1% as the age of index groups increased. In a multiple logistic regression analysis, we found that the youngest pediatric age group (0 to 4 years) had 1.69 times (95% CI 1.42-2.00) the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to any family members when compared with the oldest group (18 to 25 years). Family size was significantly associated with household viral transmission (odds ratio 2.66, 95% CI 2.58-2.74).

Conclusions: Using retrospective claims data, the pediatric index transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States was associated with location and family characteristics. Pediatric SAR (0 to 25 years) was less than the SAR for all age other groups. Less than 1% (n=36,241) of all household data were retained in the retrospective study for complete case analysis, perhaps biasing our findings. We have provided measures of baseline household pediatric transmission for tracking and comparing the infectivity of later SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Keywords: COVID-19; LOINC; administrative data; children; claims data; cohort; household transmission; infant; infectivity; laboratory; logistic regression; multiple logistic regression statistics; multivariable logistics regression; newborn; pediatric; regression; retrospective cohort; risk factor; toddler; transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants