People in the Netherlands were slightly more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 based on how close they lived to a livestock farm. These findings are from exploratory research conducted by RIVM. The cause is not clear. The virus is spread through human-to-human transmission, but air quality may possibly also play a role. Further research is needed to determine whether that is the case.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Netherlands in 2020, there were a relatively high number of infections with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in areas that also have a high concentration of livestock farming. This prompted RIVM to explore whether this also applied in the period after the first wave of COVID-19.

More contacts corresponds to higher likelihood of catching COVID-19

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is spread through human-to-human transmission. Coughing and sneezing spreads small droplets. Someone else can breathe them in and become infected. The more contact a person has with others, the higher their likelihood of catching COVID-19. Other factors also influence how likely it is that someone will test positive for COVID-19. Examples include household size and willingness to get tested.

Results of the exploratory study

The exploratory study showed that a positive COVID-19 test in 2020 and 2021 occurred more frequently in people who lived closer to livestock farms. This reflects the probability of a positive test result. These research findings do not offer any information about whether symptoms were mild or serious. In relative terms, the likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19 was 11% higher for people who lived within 250 metres of a livestock farm compared to people who lived more than 1 kilometre from a livestock farm. The probability of testing positive was 7% higher at a distance of 250-500 metres, 4% higher at a distance of 500-750 metres and it was 1% higher at a distance of 750-1000 metres.