Symptom and Age Homophilies in SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Networks during the Early Phase of the Pandemic in Japan
Kanagawa and Hokkaido were affected by COVID-19 in the early stage of the pandemic. Japan’s initial response included contact tracing and PCR analysis on anyone who was suspected of having been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. In this retrospective study, we analyzed publicly available COVID-19 registry data from Kanagawa and Hokkaido (n = 4392). Exponential random graph model (ERGM) network analysis was performed to examine demographic and symptomological homophilies. Age, symptomatic, and asymptomatic status homophilies were seen in both prefectures. Symptom homophilies suggest that nuanced genetic differences in the virus may affect its epithelial cell type range and can result in the diversity of symptoms seen in individuals infected by SARS-CoV-2. Environmental variables such as temperature and humidity may also play a role in the overall pathogenesis of the virus. A higher level of asymptomatic transmission was observed in Kanagawa. Moreover, patients who contracted the virus through secondary or tertiary contacts were shown to be asymptomatic more frequently than those who contracted it from primary cases. Additionally, most of the transmissions stopped at the primary and secondary levels. As expected, significant viral transmission was seen in healthcare settings.