Four in 10 healthcare workers who test positive for coronavirus show no symptoms of the disease. Are these ‘silent spreaders’ causing more harm than good?
The Professor of epidemiology and public health, Dr Oscar H Franco, spoke about the premise of his study.
“Health care workers are the frontline response to COVID-19, exposing themselves to a higher risk of acquiring the disease, and subsequently, exposing patients and colleagues.”
Dr Franco, based at the University of Bern’s Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) in Switzerland, looked at data that covered more than 230,000 healthcare workers in 24 countries, including England.
The meta-analyses reviewed 97 existing studies up to July 8; and the researchers found a wealth of data to work with.
Dr Franco and his team found that 10 percent of healthcare staff tested positive for the virus using the PCR antigen test.
The PCR antigen test detects both a current or previous infection with COVID-19.
Another seven percent of healthcare workers had tested for the virus’s antibodies, indicating they had had a previous infection.
Of those who were known to have had coronavirus, 48 percent were nurses and 25 percent were physicians and other members of staff.
Pooled data from 15 studies revealed that 40 percent of those healthcare workers who had tested positive were asymptomatic.
This means the infected staff didn’t have a fever, a new, continuous cough, or a loss of taste or smell at the time of diagnosis.
Such a finding suggests that it’s possible for hospital patients, for example, to catch the virus while undergoing treatment for something else.
This could also be a way for the virus to run rampage in old people’s homes, which would have devastating results.
As new measures were announced on Tuesday, September 22 to curb the second wave of coronavirus, does more need to be done in terms of medical staff?
Dr Franco urges for all healthcare workers to undergo precautionary screenings – regardless of symptoms or not.
From Dr Franco’s appeal, it would appear that it’s not customary practice for healthcare workers’ healths to be assessed before starting their shift.
He explained: “We might miss a large proportion of COVID-19 cases if screening targets only symptomatic healthcare workers.
“Universal screening for all exposed healthcare workers regardless of symptoms should be the standard strategy.”
The professor added: “More research is needed to understand specific interventions that can help to reduce [COVID-19] infection among healthcare personnel.”
However, he noted it’s “clear that providing healthcare workers with adequate personal protective equipment [PPE] and training is essential”.
The co-author of the study, Dr Taulant Muka, commented: “A significant proportion of healthcare workers are positive for COVID-19 while asymptomatic.”
The doctor explained this “leads to the silent transmission of the disease”.
These findings are going to be presented at the ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease.
This is reportedly the first major international conference on coronavirus that will go on till Friday September 26.
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