In Brief

60 college students caught COVID-19 on a spring break trip to Mexico

A group of friends on the beach.
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Dozens of college students from Austin contracted COVID-19 after a spring-break trip to Mexico, according to a new report.

Officials first learned of the outbreak in late March when three students at the University of Texas at Austin developed symptoms including cough, sore throat and shortness of breath, and tested positive for COVID-19. 

All three students said they had been part of a large spring-break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which took place from March 14 to 19, according to the report, published today (June 24) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Through contact tracing, officials identified and interviewed nearly 300 people who were either part of the trip or had contact with travelers. Of these, 231 were tested for COVID-19, including 183 travelers, 13 household contacts and 35 community contacts.

Overall, 64 people tested positive, including 60 of the spring-break travelers, three community contacts and one household contact. Of these, 78% had symptoms — including cough, sore throat, headache, loss of sense of smell or taste and fever — and 22% were asymptomatic at the time they were tested. No hospitalizations or deaths occurred.

Many of the spring breakers reported sharing housing with other students in both Mexico and on their return to Austin, which likely contributed to the spread of the illness through exposure and reexposure to the virus, the authors said. Indeed, such shared housing, which is common among college students "might lead to propagated spread, similar to the continued person-to-person transmission observed in long-term care facilities," they wrote.

The report shows that "contact tracing and testing of all contacts, including those who are asymptomatic, is important in controlling future COVID-19 outbreaks that might occur as schools and universities consider reopening," the authors concluded.

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.