COVID-19 outbreaks in hospital workers during the first COVID-19 wave

Occup Med (Lond). 2021 Dec 17:kqab161. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqab161. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Health care workers (HCWs) are on the frontline, playing a crucial role in the prevention of infection and treatment of patients.

AIMS: This study was aimed to evaluate the prevalence of hospital-acquired coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection at work and related factors at the University Hospital of Trieste workers exposed to COVID-19 patients.

METHODS: From March 1 to May 31, of 4216 employees, 963 were in contact with COVID-19 patients or colleagues and were followed up. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in nasopharyngeal swabs was determined every 3 days, by RT-PCR.

RESULTS: During the follow-up period, 193 workers were positive for COVID-19 (5%), and 165 of these (86%) were symptomatic. We identified five major cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 infection in Trieste Hospitals, four of which occurred before the implementation of universal masking for HCWs and patients (1-14 March 2020). COVID-19 infection was significantly higher in high-risk ward workers (Infectious Diseases, and Geriatric and Emergency Medicine, odds ratio [OR] 13.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] 5.8-31), in subjects with symptoms (OR 5.4; 95% CI 2.9-10) and in those with contacts with COVID-19 patients and colleagues (OR 2.23; 95% CI 1.01-4.9).

CONCLUSIONS: Hospital workers were commonly infected due to contact with COVID-19 patients and colleagues, mainly in the first 15 days of the pandemic, before the implementation of universal mask wearing of HCWs and patients. Repetitive testing and follow-up permitted the identification of COVID-19 cases before symptom onset, obtaining better infection prevention and control.

PMID:34919710 | DOI:10.1093/occmed/kqab161

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