INTRODUCTION: COVID-19 is a highly transmissible respiratory virus that has affected millions of people worldwide in the span of months. The burden of disease among healthcare workers (HCW) has not been well studied despite reports of infectivity and transmission around the world. Two HCW in Hospital Teluk Intan (HTI) contracted COVID-19 while attending a social event. They were in close proximity with colleagues upon returning to work, resulting in the spread of infection among other HCW in HTI.
OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this paper are to gain a better understanding of the key presenting symptoms of COVID-19 in HCWs in a district specialist hospital, to establish the proportion of symptomatic COVID-19 cases among HCWs and its severity and to determine the time taken from onset of symptoms or perceived exposure to diagnostic testing.
METHODOLOGY: This is a retrospective descriptive analysis of clinical characteristics of subjects infected with COVID-19 among HCW in HTI. Their demography and clinical characteristics were recorded.
RESULTS: There were 47 HCW in HTI who tested positive for COVID-19. The mean age of the patients was 37.5 years old. 7 patients (15.2%) had at least more than one comorbidity. Average duration of time from perceived close contact to onset of symptom was 4.5 days, while the mean duration of time from symptoms to first positive RT-PCR result was 3.4 days. Six patients (13.0%) were asymptomatic throughout, whereas 40 (87.0%) had at least one symptom prior to hospitalization. The most commonly reported symptoms were fever (65.2%), sore throat (39.1%) and cough (37.0%). In terms of severity of symptoms, the majority of patients experienced mild symptoms (Group 2, 52.2%). Two patients (4.3%) with multiple comorbidities had severe disease requiring ICU admission and mechanical ventilation. There were no mortalities, and the longest staying patient was hospitalized for 18 days. The high rates of infectivity among HCW in HTI can be attributed to working in close proximity while in the asymptomatic incubation phase, while no HCW directly involved in the care of COVID-19 positive patients were tested positive.
CONCLUSION: We report that HCW share similar clinical characteristics of COVID-19 infection as those of non HCW patients in earlier studies. The infection can spread rapidly within healthcare settings via close contacts among infected HCWs. As such, we advocate distancing when working and usage of personal protective equipment when treating patients with respiratory illness to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.