BAD FEILNBACH, Germany (Reuters) - About 6% of the residents of a German town that was an early hotspot for the coronavirus had antibodies to COVID-19, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Tuesday.
Researchers tested 2,153 people in the southern town of Bad Feilnbach between June 23 and July 4 and found about 2.6 times more infections than previously reported. The town had to evacuate a nursing home for elderly people during the outbreak.
Some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, so antibody tests can help establish the true prevalence of the disease.
The German study showed the highest prevalence of the virus among residents aged 18-34 - at almost 8%, project leader Claudia Santos-Hoevener from the RKI told a news conference.
Of those who had antibodies, 14.5% had shown no symptoms, while 40% of those who had previously tested positive for coronavirus had no sign of antibodies.
The prevalence of the disease was lower than an earlier related study conducted in the town of Kupferzell, where 7.7% of residents had antibodies, which Santos-Hoevener said could be due to the fact that antibodies diminish over time.
The research is part of an ongoing study in towns in Germany, and the RKI said it would wait for further results before drawing broader conclusions.
Germany has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some other large European countries, but the number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,278 to 234,853, data from the RKI showed on Tuesday, while the reported death toll rose by five to 9,277.
“The current developments should be taken seriously,” RKI epidemiologist Osamah Hamouda told the news conference, adding that the region near Bad Feilnbach had seen a jump in cases connected with people returning from trips abroad.
Reporting by Reuters TV and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson
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