Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during the Omicron wave in Shanghai, China: a case-ascertained study


Background: Since late 2021, the highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has driven a new surge of infections across the world. We used a case-ascertained study to determine the features of household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant in Shanghai, China. Methods: We collected detailed information on 323 pediatric cases and their 951 household members in April 2022 during the Omicron outbreak. All household members received consecutively intensive RT-PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 and routine symptom monitoring within 14 days after exposure to a confirmed case. We described the characteristics of study participants and estimated the transmission parameters. Both secondary infection attack rates (SARI) and secondary clinical attack rates (SARC) among adult household contacts were computed, through which the transmission heterogeneities in infectivity and susceptibility were characterized and the vaccine effectiveness were estimated. Results: We estimated the mean incubation period of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant to be 4.6 (median: 4.4, IQR: 3.1-6.0) days and the mean serial interval to be 3.9 (median:4.0, IQR: 1.4-6.5) days. The overall SARI and SARC among adult household contacts were 77.11% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 73.58%-80.63%) and 67.03% (63.09%-70.98%). We found higher household susceptibility in females, while infectivity was not significantly different in primary cases by age, sex, vaccination status and clinical severity. The estimated VEs of full vaccination was 14.8% (95% CI: 5.8%-22.9%) against Omicron infection and 21.5% (95% CI: 10.4%-31.2%) against symptomatic disease. The booster vaccination was 18.9% (95% CI: 9.0%-27.7%) and 24.3% (95% CI: 12.3%-34.7%) effective against infection and symptomatic disease, respectively. Conclusions: We found high household transmission during the Omicron wave in Shanghai due to asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission in the context of city-wide lockdown, indicating the importance of early detection and timely isolation of SARS-CoV-2 infections and quarantine of close contacts. Marginal effectiveness of inactivated vaccines against Omicron infection poses great challenge for prevention and control of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This study was funded by the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality [grant number 20JC141020002], Three-Year Action Plan for Strengthening the Construction of Public Health System in Shanghai (2020-2022) [grant number GWV-3.2] and the Key Development Program of Children's Hospital of Fudan University [grant number EK2022ZX05].

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I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

Ethics committee of Children's Hospital of Fudan University gave ethical approval for this study and participant's informed consent was waived

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Data Availability

All data produced in the present study are contained in the manuscript and its supplementary information files

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