September 24, 2020

COVID-19 in healthcare workers

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This meta-analysis by researchers in Switzerland and Columbia finds that healthcare workers (HCWs) exhibit a high prevalence of COVID-19 infection, with a significant proportion of them being asymptomatic carriers. This favors silent transmission in clinical and community settings.

The meta-analysis comprised 97 studies published in 2020, and 230,398 HCWs across 24 countries.


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Among the findings:

  • The estimated prevalence of COVID-19 infection was 11% in those screened for infection and 7% in those screened for antibodies.
  • The most frequently COVID-19 affected personnel were nurses (48%), followed by physicians (25%), and other HCWs (23%).
  • Most COVID-19-positive medical personnel were working in regular/nonsurgical/non-COVID-19 wards during screening (43%), followed by 24% in the OR, 16% in the ED, 9% in the ICU, and 29% in other locations.
  • Anosmia (loss of taste and smell), fever, and myalgia were identified as the only symptoms associated with HCW COVID-19 positivity.
  • Of the COVID-19-positive personnel, 40% did not show symptoms at time of diagnosis, 5% developed severe clinical complications, and 0.5% died.

The researchers concluded that universal screening for all exposed HCWs regardless of symptoms should be the standard strategy.

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