Epidemiological characterization of symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and positivity in subsequent RT-PCR tests in the United Arab Emirates

Rami H. Al-Rifai, Juan Acuna, Farida Ismail Al Hossany, Bashir Aden, Shamma Abdullah Al Memari, Shereena Khamis Al Mazrouei, Luai A. Ahmed

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases could be symptomatic or asymptomatic. We (1) characterized and analyzed data collected from the first cohort of reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, according to the symptomatic state, and (2) identified factors associated with the symptomatic state. The association between the symptomatic state and testing positive in three subsequent RT-PCR testing rounds was also quantified. Between February 28 and April 8, 2020, 1,249 cases were reported. Sociodemographic characteristics, working status, travel history, and chronic comorbidities of 791 cases were analyzed according to the symptomatic state (symptomatic or asymptomatic). After the first confirmatory test, the results of three subsequent tests were analyzed. The mean age of the 791 cases was 35.6 ± 12.7 years (range: 1–81). Nearly 57.0% of cases were symptomatic. The two most frequent symptoms were fever (58.0%) and cough (41.0%). Symptomatic cases (mean age 36.3 ± 12.6 years) were significantly older than asymptomatic cases (mean age 34.5 ± 12.7 years). Compared with nonworking populations, working in public places (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 1.76, 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.11–2.80), healthcare settings (aOR, 2.09, 95% CI: 1.01–4.31), or in the aviation and tourism sectors (aOR, 2.24, 95% CI: 1.14–4.40) was independently associated with the symptomatic state. Reporting at least one chronic comorbidity was also associated with symptomatic cases (aOR, 1.76, 95% CI: 1.03–3.01). Compared with asymptomatic cases, symptomatic cases had a prolonged duration of viral shedding and consistent odds of ≥2 positive COVID-19 tests result out of the three subsequent testing rounds. A substantial proportion of the diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi were asymptomatic. Quarantining asymptomatic cases, implementing prevention measures, and raising awareness among populations working in high-risk settings are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0246903
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2 Febuary
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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