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Study: Healthcare workers most at risk for COVID-19


Physicians and nurses have a higher prevalence of COVID-19 than their non-healthcare worker neighbors.

A new Rutgers study shows that healthcare workers, especially nurses, have a higher prevalence of COVID-19 coronavirus infection than the general public.

According to a news release, the researchers released baseline results from a large prospective study of participants early in the pandemic at Rutgers and other hospitals. It was published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.

The researchers found that in early spring, the participants most likely to test positive for COVID-19 were nurses, healthcare workers who took care of multiple patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and those who worked in a facility with a higher proportion of infected patients, the release says.

The release cites data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which says that by Nov. 15 there were more than 216,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections among U.S. healthcare workers leading to 799 deaths. The Rutgers study examined 546 healthcare workers with direct patient exposure, and 283 non-healthcare workers with no direct patient contact.

At the start of the study, 40 healthcare workers and one non-healthcare worker tested positive for the disease. Of all the healthcare workers who participated, more than seven percent were found to be positive for COVID-19 compared to the very low rates of non-healthcare workers. Just as in the general public, Black and Hispanic participants shows higher positive test results, the release says.

Healthcare workers who reported caring for five or more possibly positive patients and who spent more time in their rooms were more likely to test positive. Of the 40 positive healthcare worker tests, 25 were for nurses and intensive care workers showed the lowest rates of positive tests; likely due increased use of personal protective equipment in these settings, the release says.

"We have all heard about how health care workers are the heroes on the frontlines of this pandemic, but we still don't have solid answers about the risks to health care workers and who is most at risk ," lead co-author Emily Barrett, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health, says in the release.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health