Safety Evaluation of a Medical Congress Held During the COVID-19 Pandemic-A Prospective Cohort
Journal Paper/Review - Feb 16, 2022
Sumer Johannes, Schlegel Matthias, Vernazza Pietro, Seneghini Marco, Nigg Susanne, Risch Lorenz, Mueller Nicolas J, Kahlert Christian, Flury Domenica, Kohler Philipp
During the COVID-19 pandemic, few scientific congresses have been held on-site. We prospectively evaluated the safety concept of the congress of the Swiss Societies of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Hygiene. The congress was held in Geneva (Switzerland) while local COVID-19 incidence (with SARS-CoV-2 wild type circulating) was 65/100,000 population (September 2020). A rigorous safety concept was implemented. Congress attendees filled out a questionnaire to assess risk perception, exposures, symptoms and diagnoses of SARS-CoV-2 before, during and after the congress. Dried blood spots were taken on-site and 4 weeks later to detect SARS-CoV-2 seroconversions. Of 365 congress attendees, 196 (54%) either answered the questionnaire (N = 150) or provided baseline and follow-up blood samples (N = 168). None of the participants reported a positive PCR in the 2 weeks after the congress. Five of 168 (3%) participants were seropositive at follow-up, all of which had already been positive at baseline. Findings indicate that congresses with a rigorous safety concept may take place, even in areas with moderately-high COVID-19 activity. Whether this holds true in vaccinated populations and with more transmissible viral variants circulating remains unclear.