News from the FDA/CDC

COVID-19: When health care personnel become patients



As of April 9, at least 27 health care personnel had died from COVID-19 infection in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exposure settings for health care practitioners with COVID-19

That number, however, is probably an underestimation because health care personnel (HCP) status was available for just over 49,000 of the 315,000 COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC as of April 9. Of the cases with known HCP status, 9,282 (19%) were health care personnel, Matthew J. Stuckey, PhD, and the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Team said.

“The number of cases in HCP reported here must be considered a lower bound because additional cases likely have gone unidentified or unreported,” they said.

The median age of the nearly 9,300 HCP with COVID-19 was 42 years, and the majority (55%) were aged 16-44 years; another 21% were 45-54, 18% were 55-64, and 6% were age 65 and over. The oldest group, however, represented 10 of the 27 known HCP deaths, the investigators reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The majority of infected HCP (55%) reported exposure to a COVID-19 patient in the health care setting, but “there were also known exposures in households and in the community, highlighting the potential for exposure in multiple settings, especially as community transmission increases,” the response team said.

Since “contact tracing after recognized occupational exposures likely will fail to identify many HCP at risk for developing COVID-19,” other measures will probably be needed to “reduce the risk for infected HCP transmitting the virus to colleagues and patients,” they added.

HCP with COVID-19 were less likely to be hospitalized (8%-10%) than the overall population (21%-31%), which “might reflect the younger median age … of HCP patients, compared with that of reported COVID-19 patients overall, as well as prioritization of HCP for testing, which might identify less-severe illness,” the investigators suggested.

The prevalence of underlying conditions in HCP patients, 38%, was the same as all patients with COVID-19, and 92% of the HCP patients presented with fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Two-thirds of all HCP reported muscle aches, and 65% reported headache, the CDC response team noted.

“It is critical to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of this essential national workforce of approximately 18 million HCP, both at work and in the community,” they wrote.

SOURCE: Stuckey MJ et al. MMWR. Apr 14;69(early release):1-5.

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