August 3, 2020

Risk of COVID-19 in front-line healthcare workers, general population

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study finds that front-line healthcare workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) had a three-fold increased risk of testing positive for COVID-19, compared to the general population. Those with inadequate PPE had a further increase in risk.

The study also found that healthcare workers from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds had at least a fivefold increased risk of testing positive.


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Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and King’s College London analyzed data from 2,035,395 community individuals and 99,795 front-line healthcare workers in the US and UK. The prevalence of COVID-19 was 2,747 cases per 100,000 front-line healthcare workers, compared with 242 cases per 100,000 individuals in the general population.

More than 20% of front-line healthcare workers reported at least one symptom associated with COVID-19 infection, compared with 14.4% of the general population. Fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and hoarse voice were especially frequent.

The findings show not only the importance of the use of PPE, but also the importance of appropriate PPE quality, correct application and removal of PPE, and avoiding reuse, the researchers say.

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