The Spread Of New Variants Calls For Extending Quarantine Guidelines

With variants spreading rapidly across the globe, we are entering a new stage of the pandemic and should proceed with caution to save lives. The U.K. B.1.1.7 and South African B.1.351 variants have demonstrated increased transmissibility and shown evidence of increased viral load, which is associated with increased disease severity and mortality. As we gather more data on the variants, we are learning that they act very differently from the original SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain, and we need to adjust public health protocols accordingly to prevent another rapid rise in cases. Two recent studies indicated that the infection incubation period for the variants is longer than the SARS-CoV-2 strain. Therefore we need to adjust the quarantine period to three weeks as China has done.

The first study was conducted in Alachua County, Florida, when schools reopened in Fall 2020. Researchers investigated SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates among student contacts of positive cases on or after 9 days of quarantine. For 257 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection, 2189 contacts were quarantined. 134 students (6.1%) were tested on day 3, and 839 (38.3%) were tested on days 9 to 14. Of the 134 student contacts tested on day 3, 14 (10.4%) were positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Of the 839 student contacts tested on days 9 to 14, 40 (4.8%) were positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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Originally published on Forbes (February 22, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.