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S Afr Med J ; 113(5): 30-38, 2023 05 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2319318


BACKGROUND: There is no current active or passive disease surveillance programme focused on schools in South Africa. As such the country is missing an opportunity to rapidly and effectively flag and address pathogen outbreaks, for example SARS-CoV-2, in a key closed setting. Furthermore, the role of school transmission in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within communities is uncertain.  Objective. This pilot study, conducted during March 2022 in Cape Town, aimed to indicate the feasibility of conducting intense active contact-tracing in a school environment prior to a large national study to compare school versus community SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk.  Methods. We conducted a pilot school-level case-ascertained prospective study with a component of enhanced surveillance. Following study initiation, the first learner at a participating school who tested SARS-CoV-2 positive (via Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT)) was invited to join the study as the index case and all their school-based close contacts were followed up telephonically, monitored for symptoms for 14 days, and tested using a PCR if any symptoms were reported.  Results. On 8th March 2022, a student with RAT laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 was identified and they and their guardian consented to participate as the index case. Of the 11 eligible close contacts, six provided consent/assent and completed symptom monitoring calls until the end of the 14-day study period. The Secondary Attack Rate (SAR) was 2/11 (18.18%) of all close contacts who were at risk of infection, 2/4 (50.0%) of all those close contacts who developed symptoms, and 2/4 (50.0%) of all those close contacts who developed symptoms and were tested for SARS-CoV-2. During the same period, the school reported that nine of the 926 learner body tested COVID-19 positive (0.97%). Total hours spent conducting monitoring for 6 learners was 27 hours, with each learner requiring approximately 4.5 hours of contact time during the study period.  Conclusion. This is the first South African school-based COVID-19 transmission study, the results of which can inform national discussions regarding the role of schools and school-based active and passive surveillance in pathogen prevention and control.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Humans , COVID-19/epidemiology , Prospective Studies , Pilot Projects , South Africa/epidemiology
S Afr Med J ; 111(12): 1181-1189, 2021 12 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1560405


BACKGROUND: To prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, many countries instituted lockdown measures. As the virus was initially slow to spread to rural areas in South Africa, Mopani district in Limpopo Province did not experience a high incidence of COVID-19 until the second wave in December 2020. Until then, lockdown measures were more likely than SARS-CoV-2 infections to have an adverse impact on health services. OBJECTIVES: To analyse HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) indicator trends in Mopani during the COVID-19 lockdown and two COVID-19 waves. METHODS: Using monthly data from the District Health Information System from February 2019 to December 2020, we conducted a retrospective review of data elements and indicators that fall into the following domains: primary healthcare head count (HC), HIV, antiretroviral treatment (ART), PMTCT and TB. Aggregated data were analysed, and an interrupted time series analysis was conducted. We assessed percentage changes between the January - March 2020 and April - June 2020 periods, and differences in means for the period April - December 2019 v. the period April - December 2020 were assessed for statistical significance. RESULTS: At the start of the first wave in April 2020, a statistically significant decline of 10% was recorded for total HC utilisation rates (p=0.1). We also found declines of 665 HIV tests (from 1 608 to 942) and 22 positive HIV tests (from 27 to 4) for children between the ages of 18 months and 14 years (p=0.05), with no recovery. Significant declines were also recorded for children aged <15 years starting (change from 35 to 21) and remaining (change from 4 032 to 3 986) on ART, as well as for adults starting ART (change from 855 to 610) at the onset of the first wave (p=0.01). No significant change was detected in PMTCT and TB indicators during the first wave. Pronounced decreases in HC were recorded in December, during the country's second wave (change from 237 965 to 227 834). CONCLUSION: Declines were recorded for most indicators in Mopani, with HC being affected the most at the start of the first wave and not showing any significant recovery between waves. Strategies are required to mitigate the effects of future COVID-19 waves and encourage positive health-seeking behaviour.

COVID-19/prevention & control , HIV Infections/epidemiology , Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical/statistics & numerical data , Tuberculosis/epidemiology , Adolescent , Adult , COVID-19/epidemiology , Child , Child, Preschool , Delivery of Health Care/statistics & numerical data , Female , Humans , Infant , Pregnancy , Retrospective Studies , South Africa/epidemiology , Young Adult
S Afr Med J ; 111(3): 227-233, 2021 03 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1178552


BACKGROUND: Evidence on mask use in the general population is needed to inform SARS-CoV-2 responses. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of cloth and medical masks for preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in community settings. METHODS: Two rapid reviews were conducted searching three electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library) and two clinical trials registries on 30 and 31 March 2020. RESULTS: We screened 821 records and assessed nine full-text articles for eligibility. One and seven RCTs were included for cloth and medical mask reviews, respectively. No SARS-CoV-2-specific RCTs and no cloth mask RCTs in community settings were identified. A single hospital-based RCT provided indirect evidence that, compared with medical masks, cloth masks probably increase clinical respiratory illnesses (relative risk (RR) 1.56; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.98 - 2.49) and laboratory-confirmed respiratory virus infections (RR 1.54; 95% CI 0.88 - 2.70). Evidence for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) was uncertain (RR 13.00; 95% CI 1.69 - 100.03). Two RCTs provide low-certainty evidence that medical masks may make little to no difference to ILI infection risk versus no masks (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.81 - 1.19) in the community setting. Five RCTs provide low-certainty evidence that medical masks may slightly reduce infection risk v. no masks (RR 0.81; 95% CI 0.55 - 1.20) in the household setting. CONCLUSIONS: Direct evidence for cloth and medical mask efficacy and effectiveness in the community is limited. Decision-making for mask use may consider other factors such as feasibility and SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics; however, well-designed comparative effectiveness studies are required.

COVID-19/prevention & control , Infection Control/methods , Masks , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , Humans , Influenza, Human/prevention & control , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/virology , SARS-CoV-2 , Textiles