UVM Medical Center

UVM Medical Center Research Finds Expected Prevalence of COVID-19 in a School Setting

Serosurvey Results show Lowest Prevalence of COVID-19 in Youngest Students


BURLINGTON – A recent antibody serosurvey of students and teachers in the Colchester School District shows an expected prevalence of COVID-19 in a school setting.

Dr. Benjamin Lee, an infectious disease expert at the University of Vermont Medical Center Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Sean Bullis, a UVM Medical Center infectious diseases fellow, conducted the survey in December. COVID-19 antibodies were successfully measured in 532 participants, including 336 students and 196 teachers/staff. Funding for the study was provided by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Fund.

The survey found the following prevalence of antibodies from those samples:

Overall: 4.7%

Students: 4.6%

Teacher/staff: 4.9%

Student breakdown:

Grades Pre-K-5: 1.8%

Grades 6-12: 6.9%

It is important to note that survey participants volunteered, therefore this is not a randomized study, and the survey does not include every student or employee in the district. Those who are seropositive did not report any close contacts with others who developed COVID-19, suggesting that nobody who tested positive for antibodies had ever transmitted the virus to a close contact.

According to Dr. Lee, the survey results are consistent with other estimates of seroprevalence in Vermont. He said the results further support the notion that infection rates in school communities reflect their surrounding communities. School attendance or employment does not appear to be associated with higher infection rates. According to Dr. Lee, these data provide further evidence that young school-aged children in grades K-5 appear to be at lowest risk of infection. He said with proper mitigation, schools can operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, even in the absence of wide-scale vaccination.

The study was conducted because children infected with the COVID-19 virus often have no symptoms. Some children may have been infected but never tested. Knowing the rate of infections in children could be an important piece of data to aid public policy, particularly regarding school attendance.

A total of 622 participants were enrolled. The participation rate among students was slightly less than 20%. Blood samples were collected in the first half of December 2020, with a follow-up blood collection planned for the end of the school year.

About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a 499-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties. 

The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.

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