This article was originally published here
Isr Med Assoc J. 2021 Oct;23(10):611-614.
BACKGROUND: Israel has experienced three waves of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) infection since late February 2020, with lockdown and other measures employed to contain infection rates. In cooperation with the Israel Ministry of Health, serological testing was conducted by all four health maintenance organizations (HMO) in order to estimate national infection rates and the proportion of previously undetected disease.
OBJECTIVES: To estimate the proportion of the population that was seropositive, identify factors associated with seropositive outcome, and approximate the proportion of residents that were asymptomatic.
METHODS: Seroconversion rates (IgG) were measured in a representative sample of over 17,000 members of Maccabi Healthcare Services. Direct standardization was used to estimate the seropositive rates for COVID-19 infection for members of the HMO. Rates were adjusted for sensitivity and specificity of the testing products used. In addition to blood sampling, respondents were asked to complete a digital survey regarding potential exposures and symptoms experienced.
RESULTS: It was estimated that 1.9% of the adult HMO population was seropositive 4 months after the first infected person was identified in the country. Seroconversion was associated with travel abroad and exposure to infected individuals. Loss of smell and taste, fever, cough, and fatigue are associated with infection. Of those found to be seropositive for COVID-19, 160 (59%) had a prior negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or no PCR test at all.
CONCLUSIONS: Adult seropositive rates of infection were low relative to other countries. The findings suggest that early initiatives to limit infection entry and spread were effective.