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11 Sep, 2020 08:43

NHS cleaners twice as likely to be infected with Covid-19 than intensive care staff – study

NHS cleaners twice as likely to be infected with Covid-19 than intensive care staff – study

A new study conducted by Birmingham University has revealed that frontline doctors aren’t the most at risk of catching the coronavirus among hospital staff.

More than 500 workers were tested at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHBFT), which saw five seriously ill coronavirus patients being admitted an hour at the height of the outbreak in Britain.

More than one in three cleaners, or 34.5 percent of those tested, had antibodies which revealed they had been previously infected with the virus. However, fewer than one in six – 15 percent – of intensive care staff were affected. Only one in seven surgeons had the contagion, according to the study.

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Experts suggest the type of personal protective equipment used by hospital workers is key to controlling the spread of the virus. Cleaners in hospitals were only given basic masks, but those dealing with high-risk patients were issued a better kit, including gloves, a gown and a visor.

“We presumed intensive care workers would be at highest risk,” lead researcher Professor Alex Richter wrote in the journal Thorax. “But workers in ITU [Intensive Treatment Unit] are relatively well protected compared with other areas.”

Intensive care units were also designated high-risk environments in accordance with national guidelines, where the use of enhanced personal protective equipment, including filtered facepiece respirators, is mandated. In other clinical areas, fluid-resistant surgical masks, which are less protective, were recommended.

The study was carried out in late April. Richter believes the data would support the assessment of widespread healthcare worker testing, including track and trace, on viral transmission during future waves of a pandemic. These factors could be important for considering what’s going to happen this winter.

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