Study: People no longer change behavior after contact with infected person

Signs asking passengers to wear masks on a Tallinn bus.
Signs asking passengers to wear masks on a Tallinn bus. Source: Helen Wright / ERR

A study conducted by the University of Tartu states that the spread of the coronavirus among adults has remained at a stable rate, as has the spread of coronavirus antibodies. The amount of people in close contact with someone infected has increased in the last month, but there are more and more people who do not change their behavior after being in contact with the virus.

The survey, organized from October 13 - October 25, tested 2,455 people with 30 receiving a positive test result. 10 of the tested people had recovered from the coronavirus and are no longer infectious, but 20 were still infectious. An average of 1.2 percent of adults are infected with the coronavirus, 0.9 percent of the population are thought to be infectious, meaning every 111th adult is infectious.

The study leader and University of Tartu family medicine professor Ruth Kalda said the results show that the number of infectious adults is quite similar to the results in September.

"The increase in the spread of the coronavirus in the tested groups has been considerable. The increase reflected in the daily infection data likely comes from population groups, which were not represented in our study. For example, we know from Health Board data that infections among students have gone up significantly in the last few weeks," Kalda said.

Antibody spread unchained in the last month

2,312 blood samples were taken to assess the spread of coronavirus antibodies. 2,000 of the tested samples had antibodies. This means that antibodies are present for some 76.4 percent of the adult population. This range has remained unchanged from the previous study period. There is an additional amount of people who have received antibodies via vaccination.

"What makes us really happy is that the spread of antibodies has grown among those aged 65 and up," Kalda said.

Since the general spread of antibodies has been stable since September , Kalda said it is possible that people who have recovered from the virus have also gone and gotten vaccinated.

"The good news is that the spread of antibodies is very high among those vaccinated regardless of age group - 98 percent," Kalda said.

Close contact does not make people change their behavior

The study's most significant result is that some 75 percent of people who have had a close contact experience with someone infected with the coronavirus, do not change their behavior much after the experience. This phenomenon is present among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

At the same time, there are more and more people who have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. While every 20th person stated they had been in contact with someone infected in September, the data now suggests every 11th person has been in contact. People are also not doing too much to reduce physical meetings.

"These behavioral lines point to the fact that people are tired of the pandemic and precautionary measures, the implementation of which must be decided on without official regulation. They do not pay much attention regardless of the growing intensity of the viral situation," Ruth Kalda said.

The study's team calls on people to assess their daily infection risks and to pay more attention to precautionary measures to avoid infection.

"Let's vaccinate, reduce contacts, wear masks and stay home at even the slightest symptoms - these are small steps, which have a great effect in the big picture," said study team member and University of Tartu public health professor Mikk Jürisson.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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