New study supports tracking symptoms of healthcare workers to limit COVID-19 spread

Self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptom progression among healthcare workers is a likely indicator of spread of the illness, according to a new study published by PLOS ONE.

Researchers at Cambridge (Mass.) Health Alliance, a Harvard-affiliated community health system, and the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston analyzed symptoms most predictive of a COVID-19 diagnosis among healthcare workers. The retrospective study examined 592 healthcare workers tested for COVID-19 March 9 through April 15. Workers underwent COVID-19 telephonic symptom screening as well as nasal testing for the coronavirus. Those who initially tested negative but had progressive symptoms were re-tested.

Based on the study, 83 (14 percent) of the healthcare workers initially tested positive, while 59 of 61 healthcare workers who were asymptomatic or reported only sore throat/nasal congestion had negative tests.

Researchers said the more symptoms healthcare workers reported, the more likely they were to have positive tests. Healthcare workers reporting fever and body temperature of at least 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit and those with muscle pain were also more likely to test positive, according to the study. Healthcare workers with positive COVID-19 tests reported loss of taste/smell less frequently than other symptoms, but loss of taste/smell was still associated with a greater likelihood of a positive test.

However, healthcare workers were more likely to have negative tests if they were asymptomatic or had isolated sore throat/nasal congestion, according to researchers.

The study found nine of 509 healthcare workers with initial negative COVID-19 tests had symptom progression and positive re-tests.

Researchers ultimately concluded that the study supports self-monitoring for symptom progression, including body temperature monitoring.

"As we continue to battle the spread of COVID-19 across the country, it's critical we understand its symptoms to help develop the best diagnostic and testing strategies," study senior author Stefanos Kales, MD, division chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance and a professor at both Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a news release. "Our results support staying home when ill and universal temperature-monitoring on entry to workplaces of any kind to limit the spread of the coronavirus."


More articles on workforce:

How an Ohio hospital addressed the needs of its 84% female workforce
17.7M healthcare workers may be ineligible for emergency paid sick leave, analysis finds
55 Tampa General Hospital workers test positive for COVID-19

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