Determinants of Community COVID Transmission: Learning from the Hutterites

Loeb, Mark B | $1,482,473

Ontario McMaster University 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

Synopsis Achieving a better understanding of the determinants of community transmission of COVID‑19 is one of the most important challenges facing governments both in Canada and worldwide. This is best studied in actual communities. To do this, it is critical to understand factors such as the role of children and herd effect in community transmission, the role of pre-existing immunity, and the role of physical distancing. Filling these gaps will go far towards reducing the burden of disease to Canadians and others worldwide. Data and Methods Prospective cohort studies where members of multiple entire cities or towns are enrolled are usually not feasible. To this end, we propose a unique Canadian model. Hutterites, along with the Mennonites, were founded as Protestant sects in the 16th century Anabaptist movement of Switzerland. The majority of Hutterites live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba where they practice communal farming on small colonies relatively isolated from towns and cities. Within these homogeneous, moderately sized colonies, regular respiratory virus transmission is facilitated by a communal lifestyle. We propose to conduct a cohort study on COVID‑19 in Hutterite colonies to understand community determinants of COVID‑19 transmission. We will examine the role that children play in transmitting COVID-19, the role of physical distancing, the role of co-infection with influenza, and the role of virus strain variation. Impact Findings from this cohort study will inform policy makers about the determinants of community transmission. The study will also give vital information about the role of children in creating herd immunity as well as data on diagnosis, the impact of influenza, and SARS-Co-V-2 strain circulation in communities.

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