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HSE releases results of first Covid-19 antibody study

The HPSC estimates a national prevalence rate of 1.7%.

A blood sample as part of a testing program.
A blood sample as part of a testing program.
Image: Simon Dawson

A HSE STUDY on Covid-19 antibodies in the Irish population has found that 1.7% had antibodies. 

The results mean that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is estimating that 59,500 people in Ireland between the ages of 12 to 69 years had Covid-19 up to mid-July, three times the number of detected cases. 

The national prevalence rate of 1.7% is “relatively low” compared to several other European countries, with the HSE saying that these countries have experienced a “much more intense epidemic”. 

The study was based on random testing of 1,733 people aged 12 to 69 years in Sligo and Dublin for Covid-19 antibodies.

Of those tested, 33 tested positive for antibodies, 28 in Dublin and five in Sligo. This means a prevalence of infection of 0.6% in Sligo and 3.1% in Dublin.

Based on these results, HPSC estimates a national prevalence rate of 1.7%.

Of those who were found to have antibodies, 73% had symptoms that are included in the Irish Covid-19 case definition. The HSE said there were no statistical differences identified in the prevalence by age group, or between males and females.

“It is not surprising that a relatively low national seroprevalence of 1.7% was observed here,” Dr Derval Igoe of the HPSC said. 

Other countries in Europe, such as Spain and Italy, where there has been a much more intense epidemic, have reported national seroprevalence estimates of 5% and 2.5% respectively.

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“This means that the vast majority of people living in Ireland had not been infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus by the time of the study.

“As a society, we need to continue with our public health measures, including physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available,” Igoe added.

(Read the study in full here)

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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