Serological screening in a large-scale municipal survey in Cascais, Portugal, during the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons for future pandemic preparedness efforts

Sofia G. Seabra, Francisco Merca, Bernardo Pereira, Ivo Fonseca, Ana Cláudia Carvalho, Vera Brito, Daniela Alves, Pieter Libin, M. Rosário O. Martins, Mafalda N. S. Miranda, Marta Pingarilho, Victor Pimentel, Ana B. Abecasis

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Background: Serological surveys for SARS-CoV-2 were used early in the COVID-19 pandemic to assess epidemiological scenarios. In the municipality of Cascais (Portugal), serological testing combined with a comprehensive socio-demographic, clinical and behavioral questionnaire was offered to residents between May 2020 and beginning of 2021. In this study, we analyze the factors associated with adherence to this municipal initiative, as well as the sociodemographic profile and chronic diseases clinical correlates associated to seropositivity. We aim to contribute with relevant information for future pandemic preparedness efforts. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study with non-probabilistic sampling. Citizens residing in Cascais Municipality went voluntarily to blood collection centers to participate in the serological survey. The proportion of participants, stratified by socio-demographic variables, was compared to the census proportions to identify the groups with lower levels of adherence to the survey. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression were used to identify socio-demographic, clinical and behavioral factors associated with seropositivity. Results: From May 2020 to February 2021, 19,608 participants (9.2% of the residents of Cascais) were included in the study. Based on the comparison to census data, groups with lower adherence to this survey were men, the youngest and the oldest age groups, individuals with lower levels of education and unemployed/inactive. Significant predictors of a reactive (positive) serological test were younger age, being employed or a student, and living in larger households. Individuals with chronic diseases generally showed lower seroprevalence. Conclusion: The groups with low adherence to this voluntary study, as well as the socio-economic contexts identified as more at risk of viral transmission, may be targeted in future pandemic situations. We also found that the individuals with chronic diseases, perceiving higher risk of serious illness, adopted protective behaviors that limited infection rates, revealing that health education on preventive measures was effective for these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1326125
JournalFrontiers in public health
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • antibodies
  • clinical
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • RT-qPCR
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • serological survey
  • sociodemographic


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