College students who partied on the beach at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, over spring break paid a price for their frivolity: Their fun in the sand led to 64 cases of COVID-19 back in Texas, U.S. health officials report.
Little did the University of Texas at Austin students know that as they tanned and knocked back shots of tequila in mid-March they were also transmitting the coronavirus.
Upon their return to campus, three students started showing signs of illness — such as sore throat, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Subsequent contact tracing and testing turned up positive tests for 60 out of 183 travelers. In addition, a housemate and three of 35 community contacts also developed COVID-19.
About one-fifth who tested positive showed no symptoms, no one needed hospitalization and none died, the report noted. The March 14-19 trip led to 231 people getting tested. Of that group, 28%, or a total of 64 people, had positive results.
“This COVID-19 outbreak among a young, healthy population with no or mild symptoms was controlled with a coordinated public health response that included rapid contact tracing and testing of all exposed persons,” wrote researchers led by Megan Lewis, of the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School.
The authors noted that people with no symptoms or mild symptoms probably play an important role in continued COVID transmission, especially in younger groups.
“The high prevalence of asymptomatic persons underscores the importance of testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons after a known COVID-19 exposure,” they wrote.
This will be important to prevent coronavirus spread as schools and universities consider reopening, the researchers added.
The cautionary tale was published in the CDC’s June 24 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“It’s important to realize that large outside gatherings place people at high risk for exposure to COVID, and increased potential for contracting the virus,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“People who return home from large events or gatherings held indoors or outside need to isolate themselves for 14 days and be tested for COVID. They also need to inform all contacts at the event so they can be traced as well,” he advised.
So far, the coronavirus has led to more than 121,000 deaths and over 2.3 million cases in the United States.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on the coronavirus.