Canada had relatively low infection prevalence and low IFRs in the community, but not in nursing homes, during the first viral wave. The highest prevalence was in Ontario (2.4-3.9%) and in younger adults aged 18-39 years. Asymptomatic adults constituted about a quarter of definite seropositives.
BackgroundEfforts to stem Canadas SARS-CoV-2 pandemic can benefit from direct understanding of the prevalence, infection fatality rates (IFRs), and information on asymptomatic infection. MethodsWe surveyed a representative sample of 19,994 adult Canadians about COVID symptoms and analyzed IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 from self-collected dried blood spots (DBS) in 8,967 adults. A sensitive and specific chemiluminescence ELISA detected IgG to the spike trimer. We compared seroprevalence to deaths to establish IFRs and used mortality data to estimate infection levels in nursing home residents. ResultsThe best estimate (high specificity) of adult seroprevalence nationally is 1.7%, but as high as 3.5% (high sensitivity) depending on assay cut-offs. The highest prevalence was in Ontario (2.4-3.9%) and in younger adults aged 18-39 years (2.5-4.4%). Based on mortality, we estimated 13-17% of nursing home residents became infected. The first viral wave infected 0.54-1.08 million adult Canadians, half of whom were <40 years old. The IFR outside nursing homes was 0.20-0.40%, but the COVID mortality rate in nursing home residents was >70 times higher than that in comparably-aged adults living in the community. Seropositivity correlated with COVID symptoms, particularly during March. Asymptomatic adults constituted about a quarter of definite seropositives, with a greater proportion in the elderly. InterpretationCanada had relatively low infection prevalence and low IFRs in the community, but not in nursing homes, during the first viral wave. Self-collected DBS for antibody testing is a practicable strategy to monitor the ongoing second viral wave and, eventually, vaccine-induced immunity among Canadian adults.