University of Tartu begins 5th wave of coronavirus prevalence study

  • 2020-08-05
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Researchers at the University of Tartu are inviting some 2,400 residents of Estonia to participate in the fifth wave of a coronavirus prevalence study to determine the impact of recent weeks' outbreaks on the broader spread of the virus.

The people who have been selected to participate in the study at random on the basis of the population register data will receive an invitation from pollster Emor via email or text message on Aug. 6. Participants are requested to fill in a questionnaire and schedule an appointment for providing a nasal swab sample. Participation is voluntary for all invitation recipients. After carrying out an analysis of the data collected, the University of Tartu will present its findings to the government.

Head of the monitoring study and professor of family medicine at the University of Tartu Ruth Kalda said that researchers have been keeping track of daily infection statistics over the summer months in order to begin collecting data on the prevalence of the virus in the state as soon as the number of new cases grows, according to the University of Tartu.

"Virus cases from the outbreak in Tartu have also reached elsewhere and we need clearer information on whether or not the virus as also spread in Estonia's other reasons and if so, to what extent," Kalda said. While people were generally more careful in spring, during the summer months, however, they have engaged more in social activities and embarked on trips abroad, she added.

"None of us wishes to see reintroduced the national restrictions we had in spring, which is why we need to investigate if the outbreak originating in Tartu is a local one or has already become widespread," the head of the study noted.

Kalda said that soon-to-be-published results of a coronavirus antibody study also led by the University of Tartu underline the need for caution as they show that only one-fifth of those who have recovered from the coronavirus have exhibited any virus symptoms.

"This information confirms what we already knew before -- that virus carriers may not be aware of the fact that they are contagious. For that reason, we cannot condemn those who have contracted the virus; however, there is much we can do to prevent it from spreading," Kalda said. "It is reasonable to avoid crowded parties and events where keeping a distance from others is not possible, or wear a mask in such occasions. One should not attend a party if they are manifesting even just mild symptoms of an illness."

"We have been developing evidence-based solutions for curbing the spread of the virus and coping with the crisis together with the government since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak," Kristjan Vassil, vice rector for research of the University of Tartu, said.

Two more studies of the spread and characteristics of the coronavirus are about to be launched by the University of Tartu within the next few weeks. A study by the name of KoroGeno-Est will examine the DNA sequences of the COVID-19-causing virus to determine the source of unknown infections. Likewise launched will be a monitoring study based on wastewater analysis to help detect broader virus spread at the earliest possible stage.