Containment of a healthcare-associated COVID-19 outbreak in a university hospital in Seoul, Korea: A single-center experience

PLoS One. 2020 Aug 14;15(8):e0237692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237692. eCollection 2020.


Background: Our hospital experienced the first healthcare-associated COVID-19 outbreak in Seoul at the time the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Korea. The first confirmed COVID-19 patient was a hospital personnel who was in charge of transferring patients inside our hospital. To contain the virus spread, we shutdown our hospital, and tested all inpatients, medical staff members, and employees.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the results of SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR testing according to the contact history, occupation, and presence of respiratory symptoms. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) was reviewed in the presence of an epidemiologist to identify individuals who came into contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Results: A total of 3,091 respiratory samples from 2,924 individuals were obtained. Among 2,924 individuals, two inpatients, and one caregiver tested positive (positivity rate, 0.1%). Although all confirmed cases were linked to a general ward designated for pulmonology patients, no medical staff members, medical support personnel, or employees working at the same ward were infected. Contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases was frequent among inpatients and medical support personnel. The most common contact area was the general ward for pulmonology patients and medical support areas, including clinical and imaging examination rooms. Finally, the total number of hospital-associated infections was 14, consisting of four diagnosed at our hospital and ten diagnosed outside the hospital.

Conclusions: The robust control of the COVID-19 outbreak further minimized the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the hospital and local communities. However, there was also a debate over the appropriate period of hospital shutdown and testing of all hospital staff and patients. Future studies are required to refine and establish the in-hospital quarantine and de-isolation guidelines based on the epidemiological and clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus / genetics*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / virology
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Patients' Rooms
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Quarantine / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seoul / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.