New Zealand research shows that travelers infected each other across the aisle in the Covid-19 quarantine facility

Closed-circuit camera footage, genetic testing, and careful contact tracking show that the only conceivable way the virus could have passed from one room to another was in air leaking out when both doors were briefly opened. said the researchers.

It’s a demonstration of how the virus can spread – and of how well vaccines can work. The one person who escaped infection was fully vaccinated and was never tested positive, despite having stayed in the same room as four others infected for weeks in a row.

Both sets of travelers arrived in New Zealand in mid-July when the Delta variant of coronavirus swept across the world. A single traveler from the Philippines tested positive during quarantine and was placed in a converted hotel called a managed isolation facility. A group of five people traveling from the United Arab Emirates also arrived, were quarantined, and then a member of the group was tested positive so that they were placed in the same facility, across the corridor from the first traveler.

No one was allowed to leave any of the rooms, and the doors were only opened for nurse check-ups and food deliveries – but the doors were not meant to be opened at the same time. Nevertheless, it happened, according to Andrew Fox-Lewis of the Counties Manukau District Health Board in Auckland, New Zealand and colleagues. “Security camera footage revealed four brief episodes of simultaneous door opening during Person A’s contagious period,” the team wrote. Each time lasted only a few seconds.

Another three people in the group of five were infected, but genetic testing showed that their infected companion was not the source. It was the traveler from the Philippines – their virus had the same genetic fingerprints.

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Airborne transmission across the aisle is the most plausible explanation, the researchers said. “These findings are of global importance for coronavirus and infection control public health interventions,” Fox-Lewis and his colleagues wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“Person A was found not to have left the room at any time during their infectious period … and only left the room for training after the infectious period, from 28 July onwards (after persons B and C had already tested positive) “the team added. It is possible that this traveler breathed contagious virus into the air of their room, and the air exhaled in and across the hallway when the door was open.

The New Zealand authorities had tried to prevent this with exhaust fans and air purifiers, but the system may have failed when the doors opened. “No ventilation systems connected separate rooms. The rooms had exterior windows that could be freely opened by the occupants,” the researchers noted.

“Our results support the hypothesis that airborne particles in the room of person A during episodes of simultaneous door opening rapidly diffused down a concentration gradient, across the corridor and into the rooms of group BCDEF,” the team wrote.

One person escaped infection: the vaccinated traveler. “Despite sharing a room with four other people with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, person F never tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at (PCR test), and tested negative on 14, 18 ., July 21, 27, 29, 31 and 8, 14, 16 and 23 August, “the team wrote.

“Person F had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but no other members of the travel group had been vaccinated.”

This is not the first time that researchers have documented infection via the hotel corridor. Coronaviruses can be carried on small airborne particles called aerosols, and they infect humans when inhaled.

Earlier in December, a team in Hong Kong reported that a fully vaccinated traveler infected with the Omicron variant infected another who was staying at a quarantine hotel there.

“Case patient A arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa on November 11, 2021, and case patient B arrived in Hong Kong from Canada on November 10, 2021. Both case patients had previously received two doses of vaccine,” Leo Poon of University wrote. of Hong Kong and colleagues, also in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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“Upon arrival at Hong Kong Airport, both patients stayed at the same quarantine hotel and had rooms across the corridor from each other on the same floor.”

Hong Kong requires many international travelers to be quarantined at designated hotels for three weeks.

“No objects were shared between rooms and other persons did not enter any of the rooms,” the team wrote.

“The only time the two people in quarantine opened their respective doors was to collect food that was located immediately outside each room door. The only other time they could have opened their doors would be to (PCR-coronavirus- “because these two case patients arrived one day apart, it is unlikely that they would be tested on the same day,” they added.

Genomic sequencing made it clear that the two travelers were infected with nearly identical versions of the same Omicron virus, the researchers said. Closed-circuit camera footage showed that both had stayed in their rooms, as needed.

“Airborne transmission across the corridor is the most likely mode of transmission,” they concluded. “None of the 12 persons staying in nearby rooms on the same floor during the study or related hotel staff tested positive in repeated tests for SARS-CoV-2.”

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