UTMB Researchers Study COVID Outbreaks in Summer Camps

Researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch recently investigated a COVID-19 outbreak in an overnight camp in Texas to better understand transmission. The study revealed that the summer camp outbreak was most likely the result of a single introduction of the virus that spread throughout the camp, and then to the community.

In the study, researchers isolated nasal swabs collected from patients that attended the camp and 19 control patients with no known connection to the outbreak to better understand the transmission dynamics of the outbreak. The results established the transmission history and suggested that the outbreak was the result of a single introduction.

“We also found evidence for secondary transmission from campers to the community. Together, these findings demonstrate that super-spreader events may occur during large gatherings of children,” said Dr. Daniele Swetnam, lead author on the study and fellow at the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

According to the study, genomes derived from the campers were genetically highly similar, suggesting the summer camp outbreak was most likely from a single introduction. Genomes collected after the outbreak from community members who did not attend the summer camp were also highly similar to camper genomes, suggesting transmission subsequently occurred from the campers to the community.

“With Covid-19 cases on the rise, it’s important to consider the risks of viral transmission when choosing a summer camp. Choose a place with multi-layered approaches to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 spread. Safety measures could include vaccination, pre-arrival quarantine, pre- and post-arrival testing, masking, and social distancing” said Swetnam.