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Lessons learned from the investigation of a COVID-19 cluster in Creil, France

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

BMC Infectious Diseases

De Laval F, Grosset-Janin A, Delon F, Allonneau A, Tong C, Letois F, Couderc A, Sanchez A, Destanque, Biot F, Raynaud F, Bigaillon C, Ferraris O, Simon-Loriere E, Enouf V, Andriamanantena D, Pommier de Santi V, Javelle E, Mérens A Background

This study presents the methods and results of the investigation into a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in a professional community. Due to the limited testing capacity available in France at the time, we elaborated a testing strategy according to pre-test probability.


The investigation design combined active case finding and contact tracing around each confirmed case with testing of at-risk contact persons who had any evocative symptoms (n = 88). One month later, we performed serology testing to test and screen symptomatic and asymptomatic cases again (n = 79).


Twenty-four patients were confirmed (14 with RT-PCR and 10 with serology). The attack rate was 29% (24/83). Median age was 40 (24 to 59), and the sex ratio was 15/12. Only three cases were asymptomatic (= no symptoms at all, 13%, 95% CI, 3–32). Nineteen symptomatic cases (79%, 95% CI, 63–95) presented a respiratory infection, two of which were severe. All the RT-PCR confirmed cases acquired protective antibodies.

Median incubation was 4 days (from 1 to 13 days), and the median serial interval was 3 days (0 to 15). We identified pre-symptomatic transmission in 40% of this cluster, but no transmission from asymptomatic to symptomatic cases.


We report the effective use of targeted testing according to pre-test probability, specifically prioritizing symptomatic COVID-19 diagnosis and contact tracing. The asymptomatic rate raises questions about the real role of asymptomatic infected people in transmission. Conversely, pre-symptomatic contamination occurred frequently in this cluster, highlighting the need to identify, test, and quarantine asymptomatic at-risk contact persons (= contact tracing). The local lockdown imposed helped reduce transmission during the investigation period.

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