Many COVID-Infected Hospital Workers Asymptomatic
TUESDAY, September 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A new study from 13 U.S. medical centers finds 6% of staff have tested positive for a previous infection with the novel coronavirus, with nearly half (44%) having no idea that they would. never contracted SARS-CoV-2.
In the study, blood antibody tests on more than 3,200 doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were performed between early April and mid-June. About 1 in 16 tests came back positive, the researchers said, and 29% of those positive results were in people who said they had no symptoms suggesting COVID-19.
Infection rates among staff also varied considerably from hospital to hospital, ranging from just 0.8% in one center to over 31% in another. According to the author of the study, this likely reflects the level of coronavirus circulating in the city served by each hospital.
One thing was clear, however: the use of masks, gowns, gloves and other protective equipment by staff reduced infection rates. And when hospitals faced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 infections increased.
“A higher percentage of participants who reported a shortage of PPE had detectable anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies [9%] than those who have not reported a shortage of PPE [6%]Reported researchers led by Dr. Wesley Self of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. About 12% of workers surveyed in the study said they had experienced some form of PPE shortage in their medical center.
An emergency doctor working on the front line of the pandemic agreed that prevention was essential.
“Having an adequate supply of PPE is critical to mitigating the increased risk all healthcare workers face on the front lines,” said Dr Robert Glatter, who practices at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
“This represents one of the major challenges facing hospitals and medical centers as the pandemic continues,” he said.
Frequent testing of frontline health workers is also crucial to curb outbreaks early on, as “a high proportion of staff with antibodies did not suspect they had already been infected,” Self’s group said.
“What is important is that healthcare workers do not become a reservoir for the asymptomatic spread of infection in the hospital setting or in the community,” Glatter said. “As a result, we must invest in frequent testing of these vital workers.”
The new study was published on August 31 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a review of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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