As of April 2020, more than 9200 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were reported among US healthcare personnel (HCP). The majority of HCP were not hospitalized, but severe outcomes, including death, were reported in all age groups. This according to data published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In this investigation, researchers aimed to identify the characteristics of COVID-19 among HCP. HCP were deemed, “essential workers defined as paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.” Between February 12 and April 9, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports on a total of 315,531 COVID-19 cases, of which 49,370 included data on whether the patient was a healthcare worker in the United States. A total of 9,282 patients were identified as HCP.
Among the cohort of HCP with COVID-19, women accounted for 73% of cases and the median age was 42 years (interquartile range, 32-54 years). At least 1 underlying health condition was reported in 38% of cases. Investigators also evaluated data on exposure in healthcare, household, and community settings; 1423 HCP reported contact with a person with COVID-19 in the 14 days leading to symptom onset, among whom 55% reported contact with such a person in a healthcare setting.
Although 92% of HCP reported at least 1 symptom of fever, cough or shortness of breath, however the remaining 8% reported none of these symptoms. Muscle aches were reported by 66% of HCP patients, and 65% reported headache. Loss of smell or taste was written in by 16% HCP as an “other” symptom. The majority of HCP (90%) did not required hospitalization but severe outcomes, including 27 deaths, occurred across all age groups. Deaths did occur more frequently though in those aged > 65 years.
Investigators noted that the number of infections among HCP report in the study are likely an underestimation as HCP status was available for only 16% of reported cases nationwide. Mild and asymptomatic infections might also have been missed. Other limitations of the findings in this report were the varying amounts of missing data across demographic groups, exposures, symptoms, underlying conditions, and health outcomes. Additional time will also be needed to fully ascertain the outcomes of COVID-19 among HCP, such as hospitalization status or death. Also, details of occupation and healthcare setting were not routinely collected via case-based surveillance and were therefore not available for this analysis. Finally, the nature of contact HCP professionals reported having with people with COVID-19 in healthcare settings was unknown, including for example whether contact was with a patient or visitor as well as the use of personal protective equipment.
Investigators highlight the importance of making every effort to ensure the health and safety of HCP at work and in the community, adding that, “surveillance is necessary for monitoring the impact of COVID-19-associated illness and better informing the implementation of infection prevention and control measures.” They believe that improving surveillance via routine reporting of occupation and industry benefits all workers, not only HCP during this pandemic.
Burrer SL, de Perio MA, Hughes MM, et al. Characteristics of health care personnel with COVID-19 – United States, February 12-April 9, 2020. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020; 69:477-481.