November 28, 2020

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The First Study of Seroprevalence of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico begins


“It is an ambitious project that requires the cooperation of the community and we hope to have the collaboration of the residents selected in the survey,” explained the Secretary of Health.

CASPER Municipality Map / Health Department

San Juan – The Department of Health together with the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust (PRPHT) and the Puerto Rico Hurricane Hub (PRHRH), both attached to the Trust for Science, Technology and Research of Puerto Rico (FCTIPR), announced this Tuesday, the completion of the first study of seroprevalence of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.

“This study represents a unique opportunity for Puerto Rico since it will allow us to know how COVID-19 behaves in the population and their respective communities. This will give us the tools to prevent infections with strategies defined by regions, ”said Lorenzo González, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health in written communication.

“It is an ambitious project that requires the cooperation of the community and we hope to have the collaboration of the residents selected in the survey,” he added.

This study will be done through a modified Community Assessment for Response to Public Health Emergencies (CASPER) survey; and it will have a random sample of people in the seven regions of the Department of Health in 64 municipalities of the Island.

Seroprevalence is the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in a person’s blood, which indicates that they were likely infected at some point since the pandemic began.

Seroprevalence studies can be used to provide estimates of COVID19 infection; population-based, which includes people who had a mild or asymptomatic infection or who never had a test despite having symptoms.

This assessment, designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allows the Department of Health and the scientific community to quickly determine the health status and basic needs of the community to prioritize solutions and make decisions data driven.

The CASPER Project will be carried out in two stages, based on the random selection of homes, within each of the seven health regions.

The first stage will establish a baseline of seroprevalence in the population and will describe the sociodemographic profile of positive and negative cases, as well as the geospatial distribution of COVID-19 cases.

The second stage will be carried out three months after the first CASPER, in the same population and the same survey will be carried out to establish a comparison of seroprevalence during this period. This will allow estimating the magnitude of the spread of the COVID-19 infection in Puerto Rico and identifying the areas of the population that require prevention strategies and implementation of rapid controls.

For her part, Leslie Maas Cortés, director of the Puerto Rico Hurricane Hub, the entity that leads this project, highlighted the importance of the community participating in this study if they are visited. “We cannot know how the virus behaves if we do not have data. COVID-19 is a new disease worldwide and we have to study it to give visibility to our scientists and health professionals so they can take appropriate measures to counteract the contagion ”.

Benefits of the CASPER Project

The completion of this project represents a unique opportunity for Puerto Rico and its communities that will allow:

  • Know first-hand how the virus behaves regionally to establish specific strategies by jurisdiction in order to manage municipal pandemics and stop contagion.
  • Educate and inform participants about COVID-19, community contagion and the prevention measures they must apply to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Empowering communities to be part of the solution, learn to live with the virus and contribute to combat COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.

“The CASPER survey is very useful because it can be applied to a variety of settings; including disasters and other situations. This methodology allows us to know the needs of the community and the health status of the people who make it up ”, said Diego E. Zavala, professor at the University of Health Sciences of Ponce.

“The value of this modified CASPER is that it will estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, allowing us to focus public health strategies in our communities,” he said.

CASPER Project Logistics

In each Health region, 33 clusters of households will be selected, using census blocks as the first sampling units.

Within each cluster, seven households will be selected at random and within the household an adult selected at random will be interviewed using a pre-designed questionnaire.

A blood sample will be collected from the selected adult to check for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, using established laboratory methods.

Up to three residents, an additional 11 years or older in the home (at random, if family size is greater than four), will be selected to collect blood samples.

A total of 231 households will be selected using the CASPER methodology for a total of 1,617 households in the survey and a maximum of 6,468 blood samples collected (a maximum of 4 samples per household).

The municipalities that will not participate in the CASPER project are: Adjuntas, Arroyo, Comerio, Corozal, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Lajas, Lares, Las Marías, Las Piedras, Loíza, Quebradillas and Rincón.

This project will run for nine days in two stages: November 2020 and February 2021.

The information from both surveys and the results of all serological tests will be made available to all interested parties including referral for treatment and information on safety protocols to prevent infection of positive cases. All positive cases will be referred to the Municipal System for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing (SMICRC) of the Department of Health.

This initiative is sponsored by the Puerto Rico Department of Health through CARES Act funds and is made up of a group of experts from different organizations such as: the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, Puerto Rico Hurricane Hub, Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, Ponce Health Sciences University, Department of Health and CDC, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, State Agency for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD), Toledo Laboratories, Inno Diagnostics Laboratory, Cruz Red of Puerto Rico, among others.

For more information about the CASPER Project, go to: https://sites.google.com/view/casperpr/inicio

To know the services of the Hurricane Hub, access our portal https://prsciencetrust.org/prhrh/. Request your disaster training training and various related topics, free of charge, here: https://prsciencetrust.org/asistencia-tecnica.



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