Coronavirus: Woman infects 71 people after one lift trip

Researchers believe asymptomatic patient contaminated facilities in tower block

Chiara Giordano
Monday 13 July 2020 15:45
Comments
Enough coronavirus vaccine doses for everyone in UK 'in first half of next year' if trials succeed, research chief says

A woman unwittingly infected at least 71 people with coronavirus after using the lift in her tower block, researchers believe.

The traveller returned to her home in Heilongjiang province, China, from a trip to the United States on 19 March – eight days after the area last reported any new Covid-19 cases.

She did not have any symptoms of the disease and tested negative for the virus, but self-isolated at home alone anyway, researchers wrote in the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The woman had not taken the lift with anyone else – but her downstairs neighbour used it at some point after her.

On 29 March the downstairs neighbour’s mother and her boyfriend, who had visited her flat, attended a party with another group of people. Then, on 2 April, one of that group suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital; however, at this point there was no obvious connection between him and the traveller and he was not tested for coronavirus.

Researchers later concluded that the traveller must have contaminated the lift in her building. Her downstairs neighbour is thought to have contracted the virus while using it, before infecting her mother and mother’s boyfriend when they visited her home. The couple then infected the stroke patient and his two sons at the party.

The two sons took it in turns caring for their father, who was moved to a different hospital on 6 April. The stroke patient and his sons all later tested positive and researchers discovered they had infected 28 people in the first hospital, including five nurses and one doctor. They went on to infect another 20 people in the second hospital.

The boyfriend of the downstairs neighbour’s mother displayed Covid-19 symptoms and became the first case in the cluster to test positive for the disease.

When investigators learned someone in the block had recently travelled, they tested the traveller again and this time she was found to have antibodies, suggesting she had previously had the disease.

Researchers from the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention wrote: “We believe [the traveller] was an asymptomatic carrier and that [the downstairs neighbour] was infected by contact with surfaces in the elevator in the building where they both lived.

“Our results illustrate how a single asymptomatic Sars-CoV-2 infection could result in widespread community transmission.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in