Healthcare workers transmit Covid-19 to patients — study

As a result of limited evidence, guidance on appropriate IPC measures had varied

There is evidence that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission occurs from symptomatic and asymptomatic healthcare workers (HCWs) to patients, an Irish study is reporting.

Researchers from University College Dublin (UCD) said interventions including comprehensive screening of HCWs for Covid-19 symptoms, polymerase chain reaction testing of asymptomatic HCWs upon identification of hospital-acquired (HA) cases, and implementation of universal use of surgical masks for all clinical care, were indicated to prevent viral transmission.

“Our study highlights the importance of close collaboration between guidance bodies and frontline infection prevention and control (IPC) experts for developing control measures in an emergency pandemic situation caused by a virus with undefined transmission modus,” they wrote in September’s edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID).

Noting that outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare institutions had posed a significant problem during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, UCD investigators said that as a result of limited evidence guidance on appropriate IPC measures such as the wearing of face masks had varied.

During their study, they said they applied whole virus genome sequencing (WvGS) to analyse transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 in HA Covid-19.

Following an investigation all HA cases of Covid-19 from March to April 2020, 50 SARS-CoV-2 samples were analysed. The results showed that WvGS identified transmission events previously undetected by epidemiological analysis and provided evidence for SARS-CoV-2 transmission between HCWs and patients and among HCWs themselves.

“The majority of HA Covid-19 cases occurred in patients highly dependent on nursing care, suggesting the likely route of transmission was by close contact or droplet, rather than aerosol, transmission,” they wrote.

Mortality among HA Covid-19 infections, they added, was recorded as 33 per cent.

CID, published online.

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