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1.
Clin Infect Dis ; 2022 Mar 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1852993

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: SARS-CoV-2 can infect human and other mammals, including hamsters. Syrian (Mesocricetus auratus) and dwarf (Phodopus sp.) hamsters are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection in the laboratory setting. However, pet shop-related COVID-19 outbreaks have not been reported. METHODS: We conducted an investigation of a pet shop-related COVID-19 outbreak due to Delta variant AY.127 involving at least three patients in Hong Kong. We tested samples collected from the patients, environment, and hamsters linked to this outbreak and performed whole genome sequencing analysis of the RT-PCR-positive samples. RESULTS: The patients included a pet shop keeper (Patient 1), a female customer of the pet shop (Patient 2), and the husband of Patient 2 (Patient 3). Investigation showed that 17.2% (5/29) and 25.5% (13/51) environmental specimens collected from the pet shop and its related warehouse, respectively, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR. Among euthanized hamsters randomly collected from the storehouse, 3% (3/100) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR and seropositive for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody by ELISA. Whole genome analysis showed that although all genomes from the outbreak belonged to the Delta variant AY.127, there were at least 3 nucleotide differences among the genomes from different patients and the hamster cages. Genomic analysis suggests that multiple strains have emerged within the hamster population, and these different strains have likely transmitted to human either via direct contact or via the environment. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrated probable hamster-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. As pet trading is common around the world, this can represent a route of international spread of this pandemic virus.

2.
Interface Focus ; 12(2): 20210063, 2022 Apr 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1713822

ABSTRACT

Poor housing conditions are known to be associated with infectious diseases such as high Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) incidences. Transmission causes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in poor housing conditions can be complex. An understanding of the exact mechanism of transmission can help to pinpoint contributing environmental issues. Here, we investigated a Hong Kong COVID-19 outbreak in early 2021 in four traditional Tong Lau houses with subdivided units. There are more than 80 subdivided units of less than 20 m2 floor area each on average. With a total of 34 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the outbreak had an attack rate of 25.4%, being one of the highest attack rates observed in Hong Kong, and ranked among the highest attack rates in reported outbreaks internationally. Tracer gas leakage and decay measurements were performed in the drainage system and in the subdivided units to determine the transport of infectious aerosols by the owner-modified sophisticated wastewater drainage pipe networks and the poor ventilation conditions in some subdivided units. The results show that the outbreak was probably due to multiple transmission routes, i.e. by the drainage pipe spread of stack aerosols, which is enhanced by poor ventilation in the subdivided units.

3.
Emerg Microbes Infect ; 11(1): 689-698, 2022 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1713523

ABSTRACT

During the investigation of a pet shop outbreak of severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with probable hamster-to-human transmission, the environmental and hamster samples in epidemiologically linked pet shops were found positive for SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant AY.127 strains which are phylogenetically closely related to patients and reported European strains. This interspecies' spill-over has triggered transmission in 58 patients epidemiologically linked to three pet shops. Incidentally, three dwarf hamsters imported from the Netherlands and centralized in a warehouse distributing animals to pet shops were positive for SARS-CoV-2 spike variant phylogenetically related to European B.1.258 strains from March 2020. This B.1.258 strain almost disappeared in July 2021. While no hamster-to-human transmission of B.1.258-like strain was found in this outbreak, molecular docking showed that its spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) has a similar binding energy to human ACE2 compared to that of Delta variant AY.127. Therefore, the potential of this B.1.258-related spike variant for interspecies jumping cannot be ignored. The co-circulation of B.1.258-related spike variants with Delta AY.127, which originated in Europe and was not previously found in Hong Kong, suggested that hamsters in our wholesale warehouse and retail pet shops more likely have acquired these viruses in the Netherlands or stopovers during delivery by aviation than locally. The risk of human-to-hamster reverse zoonosis by multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants leading to further adaptive spike mutations with subsequent transmission back to humans cannot be underestimated as an outbreak source of COVID-19. Testing imported pet animals susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 is warranted to prevent future outbreaks.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Cricetinae , Hong Kong , Humans , Molecular Docking Simulation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry
4.
J Hazard Mater ; 430: 128504, 2022 05 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1693278

ABSTRACT

Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has been increasingly recognized in the outbreak of COVID-19, especially with the Omicron variant. We investigated an outbreak due to Omicron variant in a restaurant. Besides epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses, the secondary attack rates of customers of restaurant-related COVID-19 outbreak before (Outbreak R1) and after enhancement of indoor air dilution (Outbreak R2) were compared. On 27th December 2021, an index case stayed in restaurant R2 for 98 min. Except for 1 sitting in the same table, six other secondary cases sat in 3 corners at 3 different zones, which were served by different staff. The median exposure time was 34 min (range: 19-98 min). All 7 secondary cases were phylogenetically related to the index. Smoke test demonstrated that the airflow direction may explain the distribution of secondary cases. Compared with an earlier COVID-19 outbreak in another restaurant R1 (19th February 2021), which occurred prior to the mandatory enhancement of indoor air dilution, the secondary attack rate among customers in R2 was significantly lower than that in R1 (3.4%, 7/207 vs 28.9%, 22/76, p<0.001). Enhancement of indoor air dilution through ventilation and installation of air purifier could minimize the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the restaurants.


Subject(s)
Air Pollution, Indoor , COVID-19 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Humans , Phylogeny , Restaurants , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
5.
J Hazard Mater ; 430: 128475, 2022 05 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1676810

ABSTRACT

Vertical transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) along a vertical column of flats has been documented in several outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Guangdong and Hong Kong. We describe an outbreak in Luk Chuen House, involving two vertical columns of flats associated with an unusually connected two-stack drainage system, in which nine individuals from seven households were infected. The index case resided in Flat 812 (8th floor, Unit 12), two flats (813, 817) on its opposite side reported one case each (i.e., a horizontal sub-cluster). All other flats with infected residents were vertically associated, forming a vertical sub-cluster. We injected tracer gas (SF6) into drainage stacks via toilet or balcony of Flat 812, monitored gas concentrations in roof vent, toilet, façade, and living room in four of the seven flats with infected residents and four flats with no infected residents. The measured gas concentration distributions agreed with the observed distribution of affected flats. Aerosols leaking into drainage stacks may generate the vertical sub-cluster, whereas airflow across the corridor probably caused the horizontal sub-cluster. Sequencing and phylogenetic analyses also revealed a common point-source. The findings provided additional evidence of probable roles of drainage systems in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Aerosols , COVID-19/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Housing , Humans , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2
6.
Microbiol Resour Announc ; 10(15)2021 Apr 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1522915

ABSTRACT

We report the genome sequences of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strains from the clinical samples of three coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients in Hong Kong. All the genome sequences showed a 370-nucleotide deletion resulting in the complete loss of ORF7a.

7.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 17: 100281, 2021 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1446927

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Global dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) remains a concern. The aim of this study is to describe how mass testing and phylogenetic analysis successfully prevented local transmission of SARS-CoV-2 VOC in a densely populated city with low herd immunity for COVID-19. METHODS: In this descriptive study, we conducted contact tracing, quarantine, and mass testing of the potentially exposed contacts with the index case. Epidemiological investigation and phylogeographic analysis were performed. FINDINGS: Among 11,818 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed till 13th May 2021 in Hong Kong, SARS-CoV-2 VOCs were found in 271 (2.3%) cases. Except for 10 locally acquired secondary cases, all SARS-CoV-2 VOCs were imported or acquired in quarantine hotels. The index case of this SARS-CoV-2 VOC B.1.351 epidemic, an inbound traveler with asymptomatic infection, was diagnosed 9 days after completing 21 days of quarantine. Contact tracing of 163 contacts in household, hotel, and residential building only revealed 1 (0.6%) secondary case. A symptomatic foreign domestic helper (FDH) without apparent epidemiological link but infected by virus with identical genome sequence was subsequently confirmed. Mass testing of 0.34 million FDHs identified two more cases which were phylogenetically linked. A total of 10 secondary cases were identified that were related to two household gatherings. The clinical attack rate of household close contact was significantly higher than non-household exposure during quarantine (7/25, 28% vs 0/2051, 0%; p<0.001). INTERPRETATION: The rising epidemic of SARS-CoV-2 VOC transmission could be successfully controlled by contact tracing, quarantine, and rapid genome sequencing complemented by mass testing. FUNDING: Health and Medical Research Fund Commissioned Research on Control of Infectious Disease (see acknowledgments for full list).

8.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(6): e1356-e1364, 2021 09 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1412019

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Nosocomial outbreaks with superspreading of coronavirus disease 2019 due to a possible airborne transmission have not been reported. METHODS: Epidemiological analysis, environmental samplings, and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) were performed for a hospital outbreak. RESULTS: A superspreading event that involved 12 patients and 9 healthcare workers (HCWs) occurred within 9 days in 3 of 6 cubicles at an old-fashioned general ward with no air exhaust built within the cubicles. The environmental contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA was significantly higher in air grilles (>2 m from patients' heads and not within reach) than on high-touch clinical surfaces (36.4%, 8 of 22 vs 3.4%, 1 of 29, P = .003). Six (66.7%) of 9 contaminated air exhaust grilles were located outside patient cubicles. The clinical attack rate of patients was significantly higher than of HCWs (15.4%, 12 of 78 exposed patients vs 4.6%, 9 of 195 exposed HCWs, P = .005). Moreover, the clinical attack rate of ward-based HCWs was significantly higher than of nonward-based HCWs (8.1%, 7 of 68 vs 1.8%, 2 of 109, P = .045). The episodes (mean ±â€…standard deviation) of patient-care duty assignment in the cubicles was significantly higher among infected ward-based HCWs than among noninfected ward-based HCWs (6.0 ±â€…2.4 vs 3.0 ±â€…2.9, P = .012) during the outbreak period. The outbreak strains belong to SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.36.27 (GISAID clade GH) with the unique S-T470N mutation on WGS. CONCLUSIONS: This nosocomial point source superspreading event due to possible airborne transmission demonstrates the need for stringent SARS-CoV-2 screening at admission to healthcare facilities and better architectural design of ventilation systems to prevent such outbreaks. Portable high-efficiency particulate filters were installed in each cubicle to improve ventilation before resumption of clinical service.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Cross Infection , Cross Infection/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Health Personnel , Hospitals , Humans , SARS-CoV-2
9.
J Hazard Mater ; 421: 126799, 2022 01 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1336648

ABSTRACT

Stack aerosols are generated within vertical building drainage stacks during the discharge of wastewater containing feces and exhaled mucus from toilets and washbasins. Fifteen stack aerosol-related outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in high-rise buildings have been observed in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Currently, we investigated two such outbreaks of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, identified the probable role of chimney effect-induced airflow in a building drainage system in the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We injected tracer gas (SF6) into the drainage stacks via the water closet of the index case and monitored tracer gas concentrations in the bathrooms and along the facades of infected and non-infected flats and in roof vents. The air temperature, humidity, and pressure in vertical stacks were also monitored. The measured tracer gas distribution agreed with the observed distribution of the infected cases. Phylogenetic analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences demonstrated clonal spread from a point source in cases along the same vertical column. The stack air pressure and temperature distributions suggested that stack aerosols can spread to indoors through pipe leaks which provide direct evidence for the long-range aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through drainage pipes via the chimney effect.


Subject(s)
Aerosols , Air Microbiology , COVID-19 , Housing , COVID-19/transmission , Hong Kong , Humans , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2
10.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(1): 137-142, 2021 07 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1291923

ABSTRACT

After 2 months of relative quiescence, a large coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak occurred in Hong Kong in July 2020 after gradual relaxation of social distancing policy. Unique severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) phylogenetic clusters have been identified among locally acquired cases, with most genomes belonging to cluster HK1, which is phylogenetically related to SARS-CoV-2 reported overseas.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Disease Outbreaks , Hong Kong , Humans , Phylogeny
11.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(6): e1356-e1364, 2021 09 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1182996

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Nosocomial outbreaks with superspreading of coronavirus disease 2019 due to a possible airborne transmission have not been reported. METHODS: Epidemiological analysis, environmental samplings, and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) were performed for a hospital outbreak. RESULTS: A superspreading event that involved 12 patients and 9 healthcare workers (HCWs) occurred within 9 days in 3 of 6 cubicles at an old-fashioned general ward with no air exhaust built within the cubicles. The environmental contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA was significantly higher in air grilles (>2 m from patients' heads and not within reach) than on high-touch clinical surfaces (36.4%, 8 of 22 vs 3.4%, 1 of 29, P = .003). Six (66.7%) of 9 contaminated air exhaust grilles were located outside patient cubicles. The clinical attack rate of patients was significantly higher than of HCWs (15.4%, 12 of 78 exposed patients vs 4.6%, 9 of 195 exposed HCWs, P = .005). Moreover, the clinical attack rate of ward-based HCWs was significantly higher than of nonward-based HCWs (8.1%, 7 of 68 vs 1.8%, 2 of 109, P = .045). The episodes (mean ±â€…standard deviation) of patient-care duty assignment in the cubicles was significantly higher among infected ward-based HCWs than among noninfected ward-based HCWs (6.0 ±â€…2.4 vs 3.0 ±â€…2.9, P = .012) during the outbreak period. The outbreak strains belong to SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.36.27 (GISAID clade GH) with the unique S-T470N mutation on WGS. CONCLUSIONS: This nosocomial point source superspreading event due to possible airborne transmission demonstrates the need for stringent SARS-CoV-2 screening at admission to healthcare facilities and better architectural design of ventilation systems to prevent such outbreaks. Portable high-efficiency particulate filters were installed in each cubicle to improve ventilation before resumption of clinical service.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Cross Infection , Cross Infection/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Health Personnel , Hospitals , Humans , SARS-CoV-2
12.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 10: 100130, 2021 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1144861

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Viral genomic surveillance is vital for understanding the transmission of COVID-19. In Hong Kong, breakthrough outbreaks have occurred in July (third wave) and November (fourth wave) 2020. We used whole viral genome analysis to study the characteristics of these waves. METHODS: We analyzed 509 SARS-CoV-2 genomes collected from Hong Kong patients between 22nd January and 29th November, 2020. Phylogenetic and phylodynamic analyses were performed, and were interpreted with epidemiological information. FINDINGS: During the third and fourth waves, diverse SARS-CoV-2 genomes were identified among imported infections. Conversely, local infections were dominated by a single lineage during each wave, with 96.6% (259/268) in the third wave and 100% (73/73) in the fourth wave belonging to B.1.1.63 and B.1.36.27 lineages, respectively. While B.1.1.63 lineage was imported 2 weeks before the beginning of the third wave, B.1.36.27 lineage has circulated in Hong Kong for 2 months prior to the fourth wave. During the fourth wave, 50.7% (37/73) of local infections in November was identical to the viral genome from an imported case in September. Within B.1.1.63 or B.1.36.27 lineage in our cohort, the most common non-synonymous mutations occurred at the helicase (nsp13) gene. INTERPRETATION: Although stringent measures have prevented most imported cases from spreading in Hong Kong, a single lineage with low-level local transmission in October and early November was responsible for the fourth wave. A superspreading event or lower temperature in November may have facilitated the spread of the B.1.36.27 lineage.

13.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(9): 1696-1699, 2021 11 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1120878

ABSTRACT

Throughout the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, divergent severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lineages have emerged continuously, mostly through the genomic accumulation of substitutions. We report the discovery of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with a novel genomic architecture characterized by absent ORF7a, ORF7b, and ORF8, and a C-terminally modified ORF6 product resulting from partial 5'-untranslated region (UTR) duplication and transposition.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Genomics , Hong Kong/epidemiology , Humans
14.
Clin Infect Dis ; 71(11): 2939-2946, 2020 12 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1003538

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the healthcare system worldwide. Diagnostic testing remained one of the limiting factors for early identification and isolation of infected patients. This study aimed to evaluate posterior oropharyngeal saliva (POPS) for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) detection among patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. METHODS: The laboratory information system was searched retrospectively for all respiratory specimens and POPS requested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection between 1 February 2020 and 15 April 2020. The agreement and diagnostic performance of POPS against NPsp were evaluated. RESULTS: A total of 13772 specimens were identified during the study period, including 2130 POPS and 8438 nasopharyngeal specimens (NPsp). Two hundred and twenty-nine same-day POPS-NPsp paired were identified with POPS and NPsp positivity of 61.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 55.1-67.6%) and 53.3% (95% CI 46.8-59.6%). The overall, negative and positive percent agreement were 76.0% (95% CI 70.2-80.9%), 65.4% (95% CI 55.5-74.2%), 85.2% (95% CI 77.4-90.8%). Better positive percent agreement was observed in POPS-NPsp obtained within 7 days (96.6%, 95% CI 87.3-99.4%) compared with after 7 days of symptom onset (75.0%, 95% CI 61.4-85.2%). Among the 104 positive pairs, the mean difference in Cp value was 0.26 (range: 12.63 to -14.74), with an overall higher Cp value in NPsp (Pearson coefficient 0.579). No significant temporal variation was noted between the 2 specimen types. CONCLUSIONS: POPS is an acceptable alternative specimen to nasopharyngeal specimen for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Clinical Laboratory Techniques , Humans , Pandemics , Retrospective Studies , Saliva
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