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Published: 07 Sep, 2020

Goal of participants not yet reached in COVID-19 study

NEWS Today marks the start of the second week of Sweden’s largest prevalence study of current COVID-19 infection to date. Over 8,000 students and staff at Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) have so far taken the self-swab on Campus Umeå. And now, five days remain for first-time testers or returning participants to pick up and hand in their samples.

Text: Camilla Bergvall

“We are incredibly pleased that so many people have taken the opportunity to participate in the study, both for their own health and for the sake of the University, Umeå and Västerbotten,” says Anders Johansson, research fellow in infectious diseases at Umeå University, senior consultant physician at Region Västerbotten, and project manager of the Umeå study. “Now, we hope that the same people will hand in a second sample, and that new participants take the chance to take their first test.”

“The more, the merrier. By receiving as many samples to analyse as possible, we’ll be able to see if our precautionary measures have been sufficient to reduce the spread of infection at the start of the semester, or if further measures are required. The results will be incredibly valuable also for other universities around the world,” Anders Johansson continues.

Stephan Stenmark, infectious disease physician at Region Västerbotten and a member of the project team, also wishes to encourage more people to participate in the study, and that everyone who took the test last week to return and do the same again.

“Over 8,000 self-sample tests were handed in during the first week of the study, and so far there have only been two positive test results. From a communicable disease control perspective, it is positive news that so few carry the disease, and it will also be very interesting to see what the development in the second week of sampling will show in this large quantity of people,” says Stephan Stenmark.

From those who participated, a huge majority had stayed in Sweden and Västerbotten during the period before the testing – about 140 individuals had visited other countries. About 40 per cent of the participants – around 3,200 people – had also visited or arrived from other parts of Sweden before the testing.

The Public Health Agency of Sweden assigned Region Västerbotten and Umeå University to carry out a study assessing the prevalence of current COVID-19 infection on Campus Umeå. To implement the study, the Swedish Armed Forces man the three pick-up and drop-off points on campus. The aim of the study is to offer up to 20,000 students and staff to take a self-sample test for current COVID-19, and each person can take two samples completely free of charge – one per week during the two-week study period.

“We haven’t quite been able to reach the desired numbers of participants. This is partly because there are not as many students and staff on campus as usual since many of them work and study remotely. I, therefore, hope and urge students and staff who are at home to pop by campus and hand in a sample this week,” says Anders Johansson.