Nosocomial Outbreak of COVID-19 in a Hematologic Ward

Infect Chemother. 2021 Jun;53(2):332-341. doi: 10.3947/ic.2021.0046.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks occur in hospitals in many parts of the world. In hospital settings, the possibility of airborne transmission needs to be investigated thoroughly.

Materials and methods: There was a nosocomial outbreak of COVID-19 in a hematologic ward in a tertiary hospital, Seoul, Korea. We found 11 patients and guardians with COVID-19 through vigorous contact tracing and closed-circuit television monitoring. We found one patient who probably had acquired COVID-19 through airborne-transmission. We performed airflow investigation with simulation software, whole-genome sequencing of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Results: Of the nine individuals with COVID-19 who had been in the hematologic ward, six stayed in one multi-patient room (Room 36), and other three stayed in different rooms (Room 1, 34, 35). Guardian in room 35 was close contact to cases in room 36, and patient in room 34 used the shared bathroom for teeth brushing 40 minutes after index used. Airflow simulation revealed that air was spread from the bathroom to the adjacent room 1 while patient in room 1 did not used the shared bathroom. Airflow was associated with poor ventilation in shared bathroom due to dysfunctioning air-exhaust, grill on the door of shared bathroom and the unintended negative pressure of adjacent room.

Conclusion: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the hematologic ward occurred rapidly in the multi-patient room and shared bathroom settings. In addition, there was a case of possible airborne transmission due to unexpected airflow.

Keywords: Airborne transmission; COVID-19; Hematologic malignancy; Multi-patient room; SARS-CoV-2.