Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and retrospective mortality in a refugee camp, Dagahaley, Kenya.

Gignoux E Athanassiadis F Garat Yarrow A Jimale A Mubuto N Déglise C Onsongo Mosoti D Azman AS Mwau M Luquero F Ciglenecki I
PloS one 2021 ; 16(12); e0260989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260989. Epub 2021 12 17


BACKGROUND: Camps of forcibly displaced populations are considered to be at risk of large COVID-19 outbreaks. Low screening rates and limited surveillance led us to conduct a study in Dagahaley camp, located in the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya to estimate SARS-COV-2 seroprevalence and, mortality and to identify changes in access to care during the pandemic.

METHODS: To estimate seroprevalence, a cross-sectional survey was conducted among a sample of individuals (n = 587) seeking care at the two main health centres and among all household members (n = 619) of community health workers and traditional birth attendants working in the camp. A rapid immunologic assay was used (BIOSYNEX® COVID-19 BSS [IgG/IgM]) and adjusted for test performance and mismatch between the sampled population and that of the general camp population. To estimate mortality, all households (n = 12860) were exhaustively interviewed in the camp about deaths occurring from January 2019 through March 2021.

RESULTS: In total 1206 participants were included in the seroprevalence study, 8% (95% CI: 6.6%-9.7%) had a positive serologic test. After adjusting for test performance and standardizing on age, a seroprevalence of 5.8% was estimated (95% CI: 1.6%-8.4%). The mortality rate for 10,000 persons per day was 0.05 (95% CI 0.05-0.06) prior to the pandemic and 0.07 (95% CI 0.06-0.08) during the pandemic, representing a significant 42% increase (p<0.001). Médecins Sans Frontières health centre consultations and hospital admissions decreased by 38% and 37% respectively.

CONCLUSION: The number of infected people was estimated 67 times higher than the number of reported cases. Participants aged 50 years or more were among the most affected. The mortality survey shows an increase in the mortality rate during the pandemic compared to before the pandemic. A decline in attendance at health facilities was observed and sustained despite the easing of restrictions.