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ILLINOIS (United States), June 22 -- Small social gatherings can fuel the spread of COVID-19 in areas with high infection rates, United Press International (UPI) quoted an analysis published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, a medical journal published by the American Medical Association.
This is particularly true in areas in which the spread of the virus is high, the researchers said.
Infection rates were 31 per cent higher among households in high-transmission areas in which a member celebrated a birthday, the data showed.
They were about 57 per cent higher in households in which a child celebrated a birthday and about 22 per cent higher in those in which an adult did so.
Informal gatherings, such as birthday parties, are still an important source of COVID-19 transmission that have received less attention up until now and should not be overlooked by the public, study co-author Christopher Whaley told UPI in an email.
"Many policies designed to slow COVID-19 spread previously were targeted at formal gatherings (such as) work, travel, dining, but our findings suggest that (informal) gatherings may have deserved additional focus," said Whaley, a researcher with the RAND Corporation in Berkeley, Calif.
The findings are based on an analysis of COVID-19 in 2.9 million households in United States, from the beginning of the pandemic through Nov 8 of last year, using a health insurance database from Castlight Health, a healthcare research company.
The goal of the study was to assess the risk for COVID-19 spread associated with small social gatherings by comparing changes in infection rates following important life events, specifically birthdays, researchers said.
The overall prevalence of the virus at the time of the study was 28 cases per 10,000 people in the general population.
Households located in areas with high virus spread in which a member celebrated a birthday within the past two weeks had 8.6 more cases per 10,000 people in the general population compared with households without birthdays in low-spread areas.
There were 16 more cases per 10,000 people in the general population among households that celebrated a child's birthday and six more in those in which an adult's birthday was observed.
The findings suggest that birthdays, which likely correspond with social gatherings and celebrations, are associated with increased rates of diagnosed COVID-19 infection within households in counties with high COVID-19 prevalence, the researchers said.
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