Frontline healthcare workers are three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, even when wearing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Experts are now calling for adequate availability and use of PPE, plus additional strategies to help protect frontline workers.
This is according to a new joint study carried out by King’s College London and Harvard. However, the report makes no specific mention of dentistry.
Dr Claire Steves, lead clinical researcher from King’s College London, says: ‘I’m very pleased we have now introduced masks and social distancing where possible for all interactions in hospitals. This is to protect ourselves and the population we serve.
‘We need to ensure we reinforce and sustain this throughout the health service. This includes in healthcare settings outside of hospitals, for example in care homes.
‘Additional protective strategies are equally as important, such as implementing social distancing among healthcare staff. Stricter protocols for socialising among healthcare staff also needs consideration.’
Frontline healthcare workers
Using the COVID symptom tracker app, the team analysed data from more than two million individuals. Including 99,795 frontline healthcare workers in the UK and US.
Researchers emphasise the importance of adequate availability and use of PPE. But also the vital need for additional strategies to protect healthcare workers. This includes the correct application and removal of PPE, and avoiding reuse, which the study associates with an increase in risk.
The data also revealed healthcare workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are more likely to test positive. They have at least a fivefold increase in risk of infection when compared to the non-Hispanic white general community.
Joint first author, Dr Mark Graham from King’s College London, says: ‘The work is important in the context of the widely reported higher death rates amongst healthcare workers from BAME backgrounds. Hopefully a better understanding of the factors contributing to these disparities will inform efforts to better protect workers.’
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