In China and Italy, many cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have occurred among healthcare workers (HCWs). Prompt identification, isolation and contact tracing of COVID-19 cases are key elements in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to evaluate the rate of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection among HCWs exposed to patients with COVID-19 in relation to the main determinants of exposure. To assess the risk of exposure, we performed active symptom monitoring in 1006 HCWs identified as contacts of COVID19 cases. The presence of symptoms was statistically associated with a positive nasopharyngeal swab result. Only one subject was asymptomatic at the time of positive test. These data suggest that clinical history may help in the selection of subjects to be investigated by means of reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in the case of a shortage of diagnostic resources. We found that close contact (within 2 m for 15 min or more) was not statistically related to contagion. Regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), only the use of facial masks was inversely related to the chance of becoming infected (p < 0.01). In conclusion, our data show that unprotected contacts between HCWs should be considered a major route of HCW contagion, suggesting that the use of facial masks should be implemented even in settings where known patients with COVID-19 are not present.
Keywords: COVID-19; HCWs; SARS-CoV-2; contact screening.