Even with PPE, healthcare workers at higher risk for COVID-19, study finds

A study of front-line healthcare workers in the United Kingdom and U.S. found they were at higher risk of infection than the general public — even with adequate personal protective equipment, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.  

The study — led by researchers at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and King's College London — examined self-reported data from the COVID Symptom Study smartphone app from March 24 to April 23. 

Among 2,035,395 community individuals and 99,795 front-line healthcare workers who entered data into the app, researchers recorded 5,545 incident reports of a positive COVID-19 test, according to the study.

Researchers found front-line healthcare workers were at least three times more likely than the general public to report a positive COVID-19 test. That's despite accounting for risk factors such as differences in testing frequency.

In post-hoc analyses, researchers found that Black, Asian, and minority ethnic healthcare workers were at least five times as likely to get infected as the non-Hispanic white general community. According to the study, reuse of PPE or inadequate PPE among healthcare workers were each also associated with increased infection risk.

Although healthcare workers who reported inadequate PPE had the highest risk of infection, increased risk of COVID-19 was evident even among workers who said they had adequate PPE, according to the researchers.

"In the UK and the USA, risk of reporting a positive test for COVID-19 was increased among front-line healthcare workers," the study concluded. "Healthcare systems should ensure adequate availability of PPE and develop additional strategies to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19, particularly those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds."


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