Spring break trip results in 64 Covid-19 cases among Texas students with mild or no symptoms: CDC
With timely testing and tracing, authorities managed to cut the transmission chain before it could wreak havoc
A total of 64 Covid-19 cases in Texas were traced to students taking a spring break in Mexico in March, a few days before stay-at-home orders across the country kicked in. With timely testing and tracing, authorities managed to cut the transmission chain before it could wreak havoc. "This Covid-19 outbreak among a young, healthy population with no or mild symptoms was controlled with a coordinated public health response that included rapid contact tracing and testing of all exposed persons," researchers from the University of Texas and Austin Public Health wrote in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
Between March 14-19, 211 students from the University of Texas at Austin traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Of them, 60 contracted the infection. These people, in turn, passed on the disease to four others back home in Texas, according to the report. None of these travelers developed a severe condition. Still, Covid-19 spread widely among them. Against this backdrop, the CDC is urging schools and colleges to strengthen their control measures before they reopen. These include isolating and testing persons with suspected Covid-19, quarantining their contacts, and implementing suggestions described in CDC’s Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education. "A coordinated response with contact tracing and testing of all contacts, including those who are asymptomatic, is important in controlling future Covid-19 outbreaks that might occur as schools and universities consider reopening," the report added.
Health officials turn detectives
A week after returning from Mexico, three students showed symptoms for Covid-19. It set the ball rolling for a collaboration between the University of Texas and Austin Public Health. Together, they began testing and tracing contacts of people who have crossed paths with the infected students.
By interviewing travelers and exposed contacts, the team collected information on the date and method of return, date of last exposure to a patient with known Covid-19, presence of symptoms, and current address. Following this, they tested 231 people, of which 183 were Cabo San Lucas travelers, and 48 were contacts --both household and community. Overall, 64 people tested positive, including 60 travelers, one household contacts, and three community contacts. At the time of testing, 14 people showed no symptoms, while the remaining 50 did. In other words, one-fifth of those who tested positive showed no signs of the disease. "Asymptomatic persons or those with mild symptoms likely play an important role in sustaining SARS-CoV-2 transmission during outbreaks, especially in younger populations, such as the one described here," the report said.
The report comes as the rates of infection among the young are rising in parts of the US, including Texas, Florida, Georga, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Reminding students about the threat, Dr Terrance Hines, chief medical officer of University Health Services, said: “Not only can it help young people from getting infected, but it can also prevent them – sometimes without symptoms – from passing the virus on to parents and grandparents and others in our community,” said Hines. “It’s also important to note that while many young people have only mild symptoms, many have had serious infections requiring hospitalization."