By World Healthcare Journal-
Iceland is currently in the spotlight on the world stage. Due to their small population size, and implementation of one of the most aggressive and coordinated Covid-19 responses, the country is providing some of the most useful data and statistics regarding coronavirus. Now, top researchers in Iceland have released a population-based study on the early spread of Covid-19 throughout the nation.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the aim of the study is to provide a new perspective on how the virus spreads throughout a population, in this case examining more than 350,000 people. The study also explores how implementing early and aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolation measures can contain, slow the spread of the virus, and protect the vulnerable.
The researchers found that nearly 0.8 per cent of the population at large have been infected with multiple different strains of the virus - supporting the theory that asymptomatic “super-spreaders” may have contributed to the widespread, unknown transmission of the disease.
This revelation suggests that whilst the efforts of the public health system in Iceland, and certain other health systems across the world, have been relatively effective in mitigating the spread of the virus - more data, contact tracing, and further large scale population screening will be absolutely necessary to contain the virus in Iceland, and by extension, the global health system.
The study builds on targeted testing and population screening of more than 60,000 tests per million citizens as of April 4th, the stop date for the data in the study. Icelandic health authorities began testing those returning from high-risk zones, mainly ski resorts and popular holiday destinations, who presented with likely symptoms at the beginning of February, a month before identifying the first Covid-19 infection on February 28.
At the end of this testing initiative, authorities identified more than 1,200 cases from among 9,000 symptomatic individuals and their contacts. All confirmed cases were placed in strict isolation, and those they had contacted were placed in a two-week-long home quarantine.
To complement these figures and provide a view of the spread of the virus in the general population, biopharmaceutical firm deCODE, based in Reykjavík, began testing volunteers on 13 March who signed up for free Covid-19 screening. By the beginning of April, more than 10,800 people had been screened in this effort, with 87 (0.8 per cent) testing positive.
In addition to this data, from 1-4th April more than 2,200 randomly selected individuals were screened, with 13 (0.6per cent) testing positive. Analysis of the combined testing data suggests that children and women are, in general, somewhat less susceptible to infection than men and adults.
"In attempting to carefully map the molecular epidemiology of COVID-19 in Iceland we hope to provide the entire world with data to use in the collective global effort to curb the spread of the disease," says Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE genetics and a senior author on the paper.
"To bend the curve of this pandemic as quickly as possible, we need scientifically accurate information on how COVID-19 spreads in communities," says Robert A. Bradway, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Amgen, the parent company of deCODE.
"I believe deCODE's swift response to this emergency and the insights they have generated will give the rest of the world a stronger scientific foundation for public health decisions."
If you would like to read the full paper, it can be found here: Spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the Icelandic Population
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