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Published: 2020-09-17

Practically no spread of infection on campus at the start of the semester

NEWS When the results have now been compiled by the Public Health Agency of Sweden, it is evident that the prevalence of COVID-19 among students and staff at Campus Umeå was very low at the start of the autumn semester. The spread of infection did not seem to increase when the university resumed its campus-based instruction again with students travelling from all over the country, as well as from abroad.

Text: Anja Knutsson, Region Västerbotten

To gain knowledge on how COVID-19 is spread, the prevalence of the disease was investigated among students and staff in a two-week long study on Umeå University’s main campus, from 31 August–14 September. All students and staff with a Swedish personal identity number and who were present in person at Campus Umeå at the start of the semester were invited to participate in the study. The study itself included a self-sampling test of COVID-19 on one or two occasions as well as filling out a survey in conjunction with taking the sample.

Only 6 out of the 9,907 individuals who participated had a current infection of COVID-19 during this period. These individuals received information regarding the restrictions and procedures that apply. They were also contacted by a medical physician and contact tracing was implemented. One of the aims of contact tracing is to break the chain of infection.

“It’s useful for Umeå University to know, as well as for other universities, that the spread of infection didn’t increase at the start of the semester. It seems to have worked to combine a bustling campus offering campus-based instruction with also keeping the spread of infection to a minimum when the spread is also reducing in society in general,” says Anders Johansson, project manager of the study and senior consultant physician at Region Västerbotten.

“We’re pleased that we found so few cases and that there are no signs of increased infection during this study period. Nevertheless, it’s still equally important to keep following the recommendations in order to prevent any future spread of infection. Students and staff who experience symptoms of disease must stay at home and are henceforth adviced to contact Region Västerbotten to test for COVID-19 when symptoms are shown,” says Stephan Stenmark, infectious disease physician at Region Västerbotten.

6,703 out of the 9,907 participants handed in a second sample. About two thirds of the participants were students, and the other third was staff. Just over half of all participants were born in the 1990s. Nearly all participants had spent the previous two weeks before getting tested in Sweden, and approximately 40 per cent had been outside the county of Västerbotten where Umeå is situated.

“We are pleased that so many students and members of staff took part. A total number of 16,000 tests have been completed, which is a good number considering so many still work and study from home,” says Anders Johansson.

The study was assigned by the Public Health Agency of Sweden and carried out by Region Västerbotten, Umeå University and the Swedish Armed Forces. All analyses of samples were carried out at the National Pandemic Centre in Stockholm.

More detailed analyses of the results, including results of the survey that the participants answered regarding their potential symptoms, will be presented in a report by the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

Further information:

The Public Health Agency of Sweden: Results from the study measuring the prevalence of COVID-19 on Campus Umeå

Contact details at Region Västerbotten

Getting tested for COVID-19 in Västerbotten – learn more on 1177.se