Remote surveillance and detection of SARS-CoV-2 transmission among household members in King County, Washington

BMC Infect Dis. 2024 Mar 13;24(1):309. doi: 10.1186/s12879-024-09160-z.


Background: Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important to better understand transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Household contacts of infected individuals are particularly at risk for infection, but delays in contact tracing, delays in testing contacts, and isolation and quarantine posed challenges to accurately capturing secondary household cases.

Methods: In this study, 346 households in the Seattle region were provided with respiratory specimen collection kits and remotely monitored using web-based surveys for respiratory illness symptoms weekly between October 1, 2020, and June 20, 2021. Symptomatic participants collected respiratory specimens at symptom onset and mailed specimens to the central laboratory in Seattle. Specimens were tested for SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR with whole genome sequencing attempted when positive. SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals were notified, and their household contacts submitted specimens every 2 days for 14 days.

Results: In total, 1371 participants collected 2029 specimens that were tested; 16 individuals (1.2%) within 6 households tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the study period. Full genome sequences were generated from 11 individuals within 4 households. Very little genetic variation was found among SARS-CoV-2 viruses sequenced from different individuals in the same household, supporting transmission within the household.

Conclusions: This study indicates web-based surveillance of respiratory symptoms, combined with rapid and longitudinal specimen collection and remote contact tracing, provides a viable strategy to monitor households and detect household transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Trial registration identifier: NCT04141930, Date of registration 28/10/2019.

Keywords: Household transmission; Longitudinal cohort; Remote surveillance; SARS-CoV-2 infection; Whole genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Quarantine
  • SARS-CoV-2* / genetics
  • Washington / epidemiology

Associated data