Objective: To examine the protective effects of appropriate personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare professionals who provided care for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19).
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: Four hospitals in Wuhan, China.
Participants: 420 healthcare professionals (116 doctors and 304 nurses) who were deployed to Wuhan by two affiliated hospitals of Sun Yat-sen University and Nanfang Hospital of Southern Medical University for 6-8 weeks from 24 January to 7 April 2020. These study participants were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment to deliver healthcare to patients admitted to hospital with covid-19 and were involved in aerosol generating procedures. 77 healthcare professionals with no exposure history to covid-19 and 80 patients who had recovered from covid-19 were recruited to verify the accuracy of antibody testing.
Main outcome measures: Covid-19 related symptoms (fever, cough, and dyspnoea) and evidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, defined as a positive test for virus specific nucleic acids in nasopharyngeal swabs, or a positive test for IgM or IgG antibodies in the serum samples.
Results: The average age of study participants was 35.8 years and 68.1% (286/420) were women. These study participants worked 4-6 hour shifts for an average of 5.4 days a week; they worked an average of 16.2 hours each week in intensive care units. All 420 study participants had direct contact with patients with covid-19 and performed at least one aerosol generating procedure. During the deployment period in Wuhan, none of the study participants reported covid-19 related symptoms. When the participants returned home, they all tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 specific nucleic acids and IgM or IgG antibodies (95% confidence interval 0.0 to 0.7%).
Conclusion: Before a safe and effective vaccine becomes available, healthcare professionals remain susceptible to covid-19. Despite being at high risk of exposure, study participants were appropriately protected and did not contract infection or develop protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2. Healthcare systems must give priority to the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment, and provide adequate training to healthcare professionals in its use.
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