Outcomes of Health Workers Being Treated With COVID-19

Deaths were reported among all age groups of health care personnel infected with COVID-19.

Severe outcomes were reported among some health care personnel treating patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), though most were not hospitalized, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC COVID-19 Response Team analyzed data from all 50 states between February 9 and April 12 in order to determine the rate of COVID-19 infection among health care personnel and where they may be acquiring the infection.

The analysis defined these health care personnel as essential workers, either paid or unpaid, who are serving in health care settings and have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

Among 315,531 COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC during the study period, 16% included data on whether the patient was a health care worker. Overall, 9282 patients were identified as health care workers. The authors believe this is an underestimation, as mild cases or asymptomatic cases among health care personnel may have gone untested and unreported. The authors expect COVID-19 cases among health care personnel to rise as more US communities experience widespread transmission.

The form used to report patient data includes questions about patient demographics, health care personnel status, symptom onset date, specimen collection dates, history of exposure in the last 14 days, COVID-19 symptoms, preexisting medical conditions, and patient outcomes such as hospitalization, ICU admissions, and death.

The authors found that the median age of patients was 42 years and nearly three-quarters were female. Data about race was available for 41% of the patients, and, of those, 73% were white, 21% were black, 5% were Asian, and 2% were multiple or other races. Data about ethnicity was available for 39% of patients;’ 90% of these patients were reported as non-Hispanic/Latino and 10% were reported as Hispanic/Latino. While these demographics don’t entirely match the US population, the demographics closely mirror age and sex distributions among health care personnel.

About 2 in 5 of the patients reported at least 1 underlying health condition. About half reported contact with a COVID-19 patient only in health care settings: 27% said the contact occurred in a household setting, 13% the contact occurred in the community, and 5% said the contact happened in more than 1 of these settings.

While 8% of the health care personnel patients with COVID-19 reported having no symptoms, a majority of the patients reported having at least 1 symptom such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Some reported having muscle aches and headache. “Loss of smell or taste” was a write-in symptom for 750 patients as an “other” symptom.

Most of these health care personnel workers were not hospitalized, but 27 deaths were reported across all age groups. The authors went on to note, however, that the deaths more frequently occurred in health care personnel aged older than 65 years. While only 6% of health care personnel were over age 65, there were 10 deaths in this group.

“It is critical to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of this essential national workforce of approximately 18 million health care personnel, both at work and in the community,” the authors concluded, adding that this population still should be wearing PPE to safeguard against transmissions in health care settings.

“Surveillance is necessary for monitoring the impact of COVID-19-associated illness and better informing the implementation of infection prevention and control measures. Improving surveillance through routine reporting of occupation and industry not only benefits health care personnel, but all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”