Direct COVID-19 patient care may not be main source of healthcare worker infections, 2 studies suggest

Working closely with COVID-19 patients may not be the primary cause of coronavirus infection among healthcare workers, two new studies from China and the Netherlands found.

The first study included data on 9,684 healthcare workers in Wuhan, China, collected from Jan. 1 to Feb. 9. It shows 110 workers contracted COVID-19. Researchers found that the infection rate was 0.5 percent among healthcare workers providing direct care to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and 1.6 percent among healthcare workers in other clinical departments.

Researchers also found that nurses younger than 45 years not directly caring for patients with COVID-19 were more likely to be infected, compared to physicians 45 years or older working directly with those patients.

The second study examined 9,705 healthcare workers in two hospitals in the Netherlands during March. About 14 percent — 1,353 workers — reported fever or respiratory symptoms and were tested, of which 86 had COVID-19. Only about 3 percent of the healthcare workers with COVID-19 reported having been exposed to a hospital patient diagnosed with the disease.

Researchers concluded that the workers likely acquired the virus in the community during the early phase of the virus spreading locally.

Both studies were published in JAMA Network Open.

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