The COVID Superspreader events still exist. Here’s how they look now.

The COVID Superspreader events still exist. Here’s how they look now.

We haven’t heard much about superspreader events in the last year, mostly because we haven’t really been looking for them.

The United States has dismantled and scaled back its testing and contact tracing programs early 2022, and we’ve lost track of how widespread COVID is. But if you’ve been out, or heard stories from other people who have been out, it seems like events that spread after large gatherings like concerts, weddings, and conferences are still a thing.

Although superspreading events may not be as pronounced as at the beginning of a pandemic, social gatherings can cause clusters of new infections, even among people who are vaccinated or previously infected. However, thanks to the tools we now have to prevent and treat COVID—namely, vaccines and therapies like Paxlovid—the vast majority of infections that emerge from super-spreading events are unlikely to be too severe.

“Decreasing susceptibility of the population as a whole, increasing personal protective behavior and underreporting of cases have made superspreading events less likely to occur and less likely to be reported,” Bailey Fosdickassociate professor of biostatistics and informatics at the Colorado School of Public Health, told HuffPost.

Several factors contribute to superexpansion events.

There is a mixture of factors known to contribute to superspreading events, including the environment in which the transfer occurs, how contagious people with COVID they are also a variant in the game.

Ph.D. Janet Jokelaclinical professor and interim executive dean of Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said the primary factor in superspreading events is often an infectious person who is unaware they are even infected.

“Such ‘super-spreaders’ may have no symptoms, only minimal symptoms, or may be more obviously ill,” Jokela said.

As was the case in 2020: some people shed some virus for a few days, while others released many viruses for a long period of time and you risk infecting a bunch of people.

A recent mix variants they replicate better in our nasal cavities, and it is widely believed that the better a virus is at making copies, the more transmissible it is. Certain variants, e.g BQ.1.1they are becoming more adept at evading our immunity, which could further increase the risk of infection even after vaccination or infection.

How far the virus can spread is also influenced by the environment. The coronavirus is particularly adept at spreading in closed, crowded environments with little ventilation.

“Superspreader events depend primarily on the host, as well as the characteristics of the virus, the environment, those exposed — and probably a combination of all of these,” Jokela said.

What do superspreader events look like today?

Most people now have some immunity to COVID, whether it’s through vaccination and a boost or infection. Because of the high level of immunity in the population, we don’t see as many superspreading events as we used to.

But superspreading events can and do still happen, even if we no longer track them. Elizabeth Carltonassociate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health, said it’s entirely possible to have superspreading at social gatherings — especially when there are people without immunity who are most at risk of infection.

“The trick is that we don’t have a magic wand to identify who these non-immune people are,” Carlton said.

But superspreading events can occur even when the mass is largely immune. The immunity we get after being vaccinated or infected is not bulletproof and grows research shows that while vaccines do a good job of preventing infections for several months, their ability to reduce transmission declines over time. This makes people vulnerable to infection a penetrating infection or reinfection.

Most people with immunity will be well protected from serious illness if they contract COVID, Jokela said. Even so, while we are seeing fewer severe cases from superspreading events than we did in 2020, COVID is still leading cause of death in the US, indicating that significant transmission is still occurring. Not to mention the fact that there is still a risk of long covid if you are infected ― even with a mild case.

We do not know how widespread superspreading events are.

Truth be told, we don’t really know how common superspreading events are because there is so little testing. According to Jokela, many people are tested at home, if at all, and those results are not reported to local public health departments.

“Even when superspreader events do happen, we probably don’t hear about them as often because of home testing and the lack of testing,” Fosdick added.

If you have recently been boosted or infected, know that you are most likely well protected against serious illness. And yet vaccination it doesn’t eliminate transmission, it drastically reduces it, so your chances of getting infected from a gathering with superspreading potential are still less than if you hadn’t been vaccinated at all.

“This may not prevent infection with current variants, but it protects against serious disease: critically important,” Jokela said.

In the end, the same measures that were encouraged earlier in the pandemic – pre-event testing, masking, avoiding crowds and investing in air ventilation – continue to help contain transmission and prevent super-spreading events. Those measures remain vital as we move through this phase of the pandemic.

We may no longer know how widespread superspreading events are, but we still know how to protect ourselves in situations that have the potential to cause outbreaks of new infections.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance may change as scientists learn more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date recommendations.

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