Over Half Of COVID-19 Cases Undetected in Healthcare Workers

F.J. Thomas

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a high percentage of COVID-19 in healthcare workers goes undetected.

From April to June, frontline healthcare workers from 13 medical centers who had worked with positive COVID-19 patients provided serum specimens for testing of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. The workers were asked about their symptoms back to February, testing, and their PPE use.

Of the 3,248 workers tested, 6 percent tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Of those, 69 percent of the cases had never been diagnosed. Additionally, 29 percent of those tested reported that they did not have any symptoms, and nearly half – 44 percent – did not believe they had previously had COVID-19.

Of those tested, nurses totaled 44 percent, 28 percent were physicians, 7 percent were respiratory therapists, and 20 percent were other clinical healthcare workers. ICU workers accounted for 40 percent of those tested. Emergency department workers accounted for 35 percent, and 25 percent of the workers were employed at other healthcare location types. The average age of workers tested was 36 with 80 percent having no underlying medical conditions.

The positivity rates among healthcare workers who reported always wearing surgical masks, N95 respirators, or air purifying respirators during patient contact was lower than those who did not. Only 5.6 percent of those that always wore protective equipment tested positive, compared to 9 percent of those that did not always take precautions.

Additionally, when viewed by individual facility, the positivity rate varied greatly. Three facilities only had a 0.8 percent positive rate. The highest positivity rate was 31.2 percent, with a suggested correlation to a higher community rate as well.

In a New York study of 52 locations and 40,329 workers during the same time period, 13.7 percent of healthcare workers tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Of those workers who had previously had PCR testing, 34.8 percent were PCR positive, and 93.5 percent of those workers were also seropositive for the antibodies.

Those that are exposed to SARS-CoV-2 develop antibodies to the virus within 1 to 2 weeks of exposure to the virus, experts say. The CDC proposes that maybe serologic testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies could be a more accurate way to identify SARS-CoV-2 infections, especially in healthcare workers without symptoms.

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