Despite Protective Gear, Health Care Providers at Heightened Risk of COVID-19

Frontline health care workers have a 3-fold increased risk of contracting coronavirus disease 2019 despite use of personal protective equipment.

Frontline health care workers have a 3-fold increased risk of contracting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) despite the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a new study published in Lancet Public Health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 700,000 deaths with over 18 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Many health care providers are routinely exposed to the virus and are at an increased risk of infection.

The study, which was conducted by King’s College London, examined data from more than 2 million people and 99,795 frontline health care workers in the United Kingdom and the United States. The data were collected with the COVID Symptom Tracker App.

Researchers found that the prevalence of COVID-19 was much higher for the frontline medical community than the general population. For frontline health care workers, the rate of infection was 2747 cases per 100,000 frontline workers.

For the general population, it was 242 cases per 100,000 people, according to the press release. More than 20% of the frontline health care community reported at least 1 symptom of COVID-19, such as fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and hoarse voice, whereas for the general population, it was 14.4%, according to the study

Researchers also found that health care workers from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds have a higher risk of infection. These frontline workers had a fivefold increased risk of infection compared with the non-Hispanic white general community, according to the study. Non-white health care workers were more likely to report inadequate access to PPE even after adjusting for COVID-19 exposure.

"I'm very pleased we have now introduced masks and social distancing where possible for all interactions in hospitals, to protect ourselves and the population we serve. We need to ensure this is reinforced and sustained throughout the health service, including in health care settings outside hospitals, for example in care homes,” lead clinical researcher from King's College London, Claire Steves, PhD, said in the press release.

The study authors said that implementing social distancing among health care professionals is important and that protocols for socializing among health care staff should also be considered.

Reference

Frontline healthcare workers more likely to test positive for COVID despite PPE (News Release), London, UK, July 31, 2020, EurekAlert! Accessed August 7, 2020.