Exposure factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands: A cross-sectional study

Demi M E Pagen*, Stephanie Brinkhues, Nicole H T M Dukers-Muijrers, Casper D J den Heijer, Noortje Bouwmeester-Vincken, Daniëlle A T Hanssen, Inge H M van Loo, Paul H M Savelkoul, Christian J P A Hoebe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The availability of valid Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronvirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) serological tests overcome the problem of underestimated cumulative Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases during the first months of the pandemic in The Netherlands. The possibility to reliably determine the number of truly infected persons, enabled us to study initial drivers for exposure risk in the absence of routine testing. Numerous activities or circumstances can accelerate virus spread, here defined as exposure factors. Hence, we aimed to evaluate a wide variety of demographic, behavioural and social exposure factors associated with seropositivity during the first eight months of the pandemic in Limburg, The Netherlands.

METHODS: SARS-CoV-2 point-seroprevalence was determined cross-sectionally to indicate previous infection in a convenience sample of minimal 10,000 inhabitants of the study province. All adult (18+ years) inhabitants of the study province were eligible to register themselves for participation. Once the initial 10,000 registrations were reached, a reserve list was kept to ensure sufficient participants. Possible exposure factors were mapped by means of an extensive questionnaire. Associated exposure factors were determined using univariable and multivariable logistic regression models.

RESULTS: Seropositivity was established in 19.5% (n = 1,948) of the 10,001 participants (on average 49 years old (SD = 15; range 18-90 years), majority women (n = 5,829; 58.3%). Exposure factors associated with seropositivity included current education, working in healthcare and not working from home, and being a member of three or four associations or clubs. Specifically for February-March 2020, visiting an après-ski bar during winter sports in Austria, travelling to Spain, celebrating carnival, and participating in a singing activity or ball sport were associated with seropositivity.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results confirm that relevant COVID-19 exposure factors generally reflected circumstances where social distancing was impossible, and the number and duration of contacts was high, in particular for indoor activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0268057
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2022


  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands/epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies

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