Hong Kong Med J 2006;12:201-7 | Number 3, June 2006
Prevalence of subclinical infection and transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in a residential care home for the elderly
LCL Heung, T Li, SK Mak, WM Chan
Elderly Health Services, Department of Health, 35/F Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
OBJECTIVE. To ascertain the prevalence of subclinical severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus (SARS-CoV) infection and study the transmission of SARS-CoV in a local outbreak at a residential care home for the elderly.
DESIGN. Cross-sectional study.
SETTING. A residential care home for the elderly in Hong Kong with a local outbreak of SARS.
PARTICIPANTS. Residents and staff in the residential care home who had contact with three patients with SARS (residents A and B, and staff C).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES. Blood samples were tested for total antibodies to SARS-CoV by immunofluorescence antibody test. The transmission of SARS was elucidated based on information from standardised questionnaires, and records of investigation and surveillance by the Department of Health.
RESULTS. Among the 90 eligible residents, three died, one moved out, and 19 refused to participate. Of the 32 eligible staff, six refused to participate. None of the remaining 93 participants tested positive for antibody to SARS-CoV. Based on the chronological order, resident A might have transmitted infection to resident B and staff C. Sitting close to the bathroom doorway while resident A took a shower was the only contact of resident B with resident A. The only opportunity for staff C to have contact with body fluids/excreta of resident A was in the handling of rubbish from the resident’s room.
CONCLUSION. Subclinical SARS-CoV infection was rare in a residential care home for the elderly with an outbreak of SARS. Nonetheless the close working and living conditions for staff and residents in such a home may facilitate transmission of SARS despite vigilant precautionary measures.
Key words: Aged; Disease transmission; Homes for the aged; Seroepidemiologic studies; Severe acute respiratory syndrome
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