A 13-year-old spread COVID-19 to 11 members of her family across four states during a 3-week family gathering, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The outbreak took place earlier this summer. The 13-year-old was first exposed to the coronavirus "during a large COVID-19 outbreak in June 2020" away from home, according to the CDC. She initially tested negative for COVID-19 four days after her exposure, when she was asymptomatic.
Two days later, she began experiencing nasal congestion, her only symptom of coronavirus; that same day, she began traveling to a family gathering with her parents and two brothers. Attendees at the gathering "belonged to five households in four states" – Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to the New York Times – "and ranged in age from 9 to 72 years," 14 of which stayed in the same five-bedroom, two-bathroom house. Nobody wore masks or followed recommended social distancing guidelines.
Among the 14 people who stayed in the house, 12 experienced symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19, including the original patient. The other two overnight attendees did not experience symptoms, including one who tested negative.
One family member was hospitalized, and another visited an emergency room citing trouble breathing, but both recovered.
An additional six relatives visited the house on various days, and while they did not wear face masks, they remained outdoors and maintained physical distance. None of those six relatives developed symptoms, and four had negative tests; two were not tested.
The CDC shared this report to highlight that "children and adolescents can serve as the source for COVID-19 outbreaks within families, even when their symptoms are mild," and said that better understanding of how kids and teens transmit the virus is needed.
The organization also says that the investigation "provides evidence of the benefit of physical distancing as a mitigation strategy to prevent" the spread of the coronavirus, and offered caution about gatherings.
"SARS-CoV-2 can spread efficiently during gatherings, especially with prolonged, close contact," the report said. "Physical distancing, face mask use, and hand hygiene reduce transmission; gatherings should be avoided when physical distancing and face mask use are not possible."
As the holiday season approaches, which normally features large family get-togethers, experts say cases like these are a sobering reminder of the reality of the pandemic.
“(The) outbreak highlights several important issues that are good to review before the holidays,” a Cook County Department of Public Health spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune. According to the Tribune, several family members were from Cook County, Il., but would not give any further information due to privacy concerns.