Study: Hospital-acquired COVID-19 Picked Up Through Other Patients Rather Than Health Care Workers

The team used new statistical methods that combine viral genome sequence data with clinical information about the locations of individuals to help look at where the data were consistent with transmission occurring between individuals in the hospital.

A new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital found that most patients who contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital did so from other patients rather than from health care workers.

The research team analyzed data between March and June 2020 and identified 5 wards at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in which multiple individuals, including patients and health care workers, tested positive for COVID-19 within a short period of time, insinuating an inner outbreak may occurred, according to the study.

The team used new statistical methods that combine viral genome sequence data with clinical information about the locations of individuals to help look at where the data were consistent with transmission occurring between individuals in the hospital.

The results of the study showed that the patients who were infected in the hospital were mostly infected by other patients rather than by the hospital staff, according to the authors. Additionally, out of 22 cases in which the patients were infected in the hospital, 20 were the result of the virus spreading between patients, according to the study.

“The fact that the vast majority of infections were between patients suggests that measures taken by hospital staff to prevent staff transmitting the virus to patients, such as the wearing of masks, were likely to have been effective,” said lead study author Chris Illingworth, MD, in a press release. “But it also highlights why it is important that patients themselves are screened for COVID-19 regularly, even if asymptomatic, and wear face masks where possible.”

In contrast, health care workers were almost as likely to be infected by patients as they were by other health care workers, according to the study. Further, a trend was found toward individuals either infecting no one else or infecting multiple other people, with just over one-fifth of patients causing 80% of the infections.

“Preventing new cases of hospital-based infection is a critical part of our work.Here we have shown that analyzing clinical and viral genome sequence data can produce insights that inform infection control measures, which are so important for protecting patients and health care workers alike,” said co-lead author William Hamilton, MD, in the press release.

REFERENCE

Hospital-acquired COVID-19 tends to be picked up from other patients, not from healthcare workers. University of Cambridge. August 24, 2021. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/hospital-acquired-covid-19-tends-to-be-picked-up-from-other-patients-not-from-healthcare-workers

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