Testing only people with symptoms won’t control outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It takes repeated, regular testing of all staff and residents to find and control the cases, the CDC said.
A CDC team and colleagues at the Detroit Health Department formed a rapid testing unit that visited 26 Detroit-area nursing homes and facilities when the virus started spreading there in March. By the time the outbreak ended, 1,207 out of 2,773 residents tested positive for the virus – an attack rate of 44%, the CDC-led team reported in the agency’s weekly report.
Only 55% of those who were infected had symptoms the first time they tested positive, the team reported.
“Symptom-based screening in skilled nursing facilities is inadequate to detect SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” the team concluded.
Repeated testing helped the team identify cases and separate infected residents and staff from those who were not infected.
“CDC now recommends repeat testing (e.g., every 3–7 days) of all residents and health care personnel who previously had negative test results until testing identifies no new cases of COVID-19 among residents or health care personnel,” the team wrote.
In the three weeks after they were tested, 37% of the Covid-19 patients were hospitalized and 24% of them died, the team found. Those who had symptoms were far more likely to die; 40% of the patients with symptoms died, compared to 5% of those with no symptoms.