Italian clusters indicate risk for rapid COVID-19 transmission

  • ECDC
  • ECDC
  • 24 Feb 2020

  • curated by Liz Scherer
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Current ECDC Threat Assessment Brief emphasizes that while COVID-19 risk for the EU/EEA and the UK is low to moderate, risk for case clusters observed in Italy is high.
  • At this writing, Italian authorities confirmed 200 cases, with 5 deaths.

Why this matters

  • Case clusters highlight likelihood for rapid, local COVID-19 transmission without direct evidence for first-generation transmission.
  • Experts recommend testing symptomatic and asymptomatic patients with recent travel to affected Italian municipalities and/or Wuhan as soon as possible.
  • Consult WHO and ECDC guidance.

Key points

  • Transmission appears to have occurred locally; Italian authorities are conducting confirmatory testing and extensive contact tracing. 
  • Strict public health measures, including travel bans, suspension of public events, institution closures, and quarantine and surveillance have been implemented.
  • ECDC warns of the potential effect of similar case clusters in the EU/EEA and UK, especially for vulnerable elderly populations with comorbidities.
    •   Significantly strained health care and hospital resources are likely.
  •   A Lancet Respiratory Medicine observational study confirms:
    • High mortality rates among critically ill patients with likely post-ICU admission survival of 1-2 weeks. 
    • Older patients with comorbidities and acute respiratory distress syndrome have increased mortality risk.