Researchers at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine have published the first data from a COVID-19 community survey launched Friday in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Survey Center. The survey will track the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Hampshire and factors associated with transmission.
Early results (https://cola.unh.edu/unh-survey-center/projects/dartmouthunh-covid-19-survey and at https://geiselmed.dartmouth.edu/epidemiology/covid-19-in-new-hampshire/) indicate that just over half of the 1,029 New Hampshire households surveyed (and 68 percent of individuals within those households) had been completely symptom-free during the past four weeks. The most commonly reported symptoms were runny nose/nasal congestion (27 percent of households), sore throat (15 percent), persistent dry cough (9 percent) and fever (8 percent).
“Without laboratory testing we don’t know which of these symptoms are caused by COVID-19 or by other common viruses that circulate in winter, but we’ll understand that question better by following people over time—so it’s critical that our participants continue to give us information in our daily health survey,” says Judy Rees, MD, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology at Geisel who is co-leading the effort with Tracy Keirns, PhD, assistant director of the UNH Survey Center.
“Another thing we’re seeing is that fewer than 20 percent of households are substantially reducing their exposure to family members with cough or shortness of breath by trying to isolate them in the home,” adds Rees. “Isolation isn’t easy in families with children, but in older age groups it’s something to consider if there’s space in the home to do it. Frequent handwashing and cleaning surfaces in the home can also help reduce transmission between family members.”
Designed to be completed via computer or smart phone, the on-line survey was sent to the Granite State Panel—a cohort of nearly 3,400 New Hampshire residents selected randomly over the past year who have agreed to participate in statewide research through the UNH Survey Center. In addition to tracking daily symptoms, the study is gathering other important data such as: factors associated with household transmissions, how often people practice hand sanitizing and social distancing, how often they leave their homes to do shopping or other activities, and how using supplements like vitamin D and probiotics may influence symptoms.
“We are very excited with the initial response to our baseline survey, and we’re hoping that all those individuals will continue to participate over the coming weeks in the shorter daily survey,” says Keirns. “We’ll make the results available as quickly as possible, posting new results at least weekly, starting today.” Additional results from the baseline survey are expected online later this week.
“This is a really nice collaboration between UNH and Dartmouth and it’s one that reflects the community spirit that we’re seeing in many places around the state right now,” says Rees. “We’re grateful to the Survey Center for being willing to take this on with us.”
Members of the Granite State Panel were specifically invited because they are thought to be representative of the state as a whole. The survey is not open to others at this time, although future surveys may be extended more broadly to others in the population.
This project is supported by emergency funding from The Hitchcock Foundation and in-kind support by UNH Survey Center staff. The UNH Survey Center will be following New Hampshire attitudes during this health crisis and releasing more reports in coming weeks.
Founded in 1797, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The Geisel School of Medicine is renowned for its leadership in medical education, healthcare policy and delivery science, biomedical research, global health, and in creating innovations that improve lives worldwide. As one of America’s leading medical schools, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of diverse leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in healthcare.
The University of New Hampshire inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation, and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top-ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts, and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. As one of the nation’s highest-performing research universities, UNH partners with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, and receives more than $110 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea, and space.