Probable Secondary Infections in Households of SARS Patients in Hong Kong

Although severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is highly infectious in clinical settings, SARS has not been well examined in household settings. The household and household member attack rates were calculated for 1,214 SARS case-patients and their household members, stratified by two phases of the epidemic. A case-control analysis identified risk factors for secondary infection. Secondary infection occurred in 14.9% (22.1% versus 11% in earlier and later phases) of all households and 8% (11.7% versus 5.9% in the earlier and later phases) of all household members. Healthcare workers’ households were less likely to be affected. Risk factors from the multivariate analysis included at-home duration before hospitalization, hospital visitation to the SARS patient (and mask use during the visit), and frequency of close contact. SARS transmission at the household level was not negligible in Hong Kong. Transmission rates may be greatly reduced with precautionary measures taken by household members of SARS patients.