JOURNAL ARTICLE

Risk-stratified seroprevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus among children in Hong Kong

Pamela P W Lee, Wilfred H S Wong, Gabriel M Leung, Susan S Chiu, Kwok-Hung Chan, Joseph S M Peiris, Tai-Hing Lam, Yu-Lung Lau
Pediatrics 2006, 117 (6): e1156-62
16682490

BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome was relatively mild in children, and the incidence was significantly lower when compared with adults. Although previous seroepidemiological studies demonstrated that asymptomatic infection was uncommon among health care workers and adult contacts of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome, it is unclear whether this would extend to the pediatric population.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the seroprevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus among asymptomatic children living near Amoy Gardens (site of largest community outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Hong Kong) compared with a low-risk region where no community transmission occurred.

METHODS: The study was conducted from September to October 2003. Target subjects living in the defined high-risk and low-risk areas were approached through the schools within the respective localities. We recruited 353 and 361 children, respectively, from the high-risk and low-risk areas and collected 3 to 5 mL of blood for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus IgG antibody testing by immunofluorescence antibody assay and confirmation by neutralization test. Parents of all of the subjects who joined the study were contacted by telephone, and a standardized questionnaire was administered by a research nurse to collect information including sociodemographic data, history of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection in the subjects and members of the household, history of contact with known cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome-like symptoms since onset of the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, travel history of the child and his/her relatives within the 15 days before any such symptom onset, use of health service as a result of such symptoms, and whether there were deaths of relatives as a result of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

RESULTS: Two (0.57%) of 353 asymptomatic children from the high-risk area were tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus antibody compared with 0 of 361 in the low-risk region. None of the 14 children who lived in the high-risk area and had known contacts with severe acute respiratory syndrome patients were seropositive.

CONCLUSIONS: As in adults, subclinical severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection was rare in children in the 2003 epidemic. The very low seroprevalence implies little or no population herd immunity to protect against future resurgence of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

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