Differences in risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection among healthcare workers

Prev Med Rep. 2021 Dec;24:101518. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2021.101518. Epub 2021 Aug 21.


Healthcare workers (HCWs) are a risk group for SARS-CoV-2 infection, but which healthcare work that conveys risk and to what extent such risk can be prevented is not clear. Starting on April 24th, 2020, all employees at work (n = 15,300) at the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden were invited and 92% consented to participate in a SARS-CoV-2 cohort study. Complete SARS-CoV-2 serology was available for n = 12,928 employees and seroprevalences were analyzed by age, sex, profession, patient contact, and hospital department. Relative risks were estimated to examine the association between type of hospital department as a proxy for different working environment exposure and risk for seropositivity, adjusting for age, sex, sampling week, and profession. Wards that were primarily responsible for COVID-19 patients were at increased risk (adjusted OR 1.95 (95% CI 1.65-2.32) with the notable exception of the infectious diseases and intensive care units (adjusted OR 0.86 (95% CI 0.66-1.13)), that were not at increased risk despite being highly exposed. Several units with similar types of work varied greatly in seroprevalences. Among the professions examined, nurse assistants had the highest risk (adjusted OR 1.62 (95% CI 1.38-1.90)). Although healthcare workers, in particular nurse assistants, who attend to COVID-19 patients are a risk group for SARS-CoV-2 infection, several units caring for COVID-19 patients had no excess risk. Large variations in seroprevalences among similar units suggest that healthcare work-related risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection may be preventable.

Keywords: COVID-19; Healthcare workers; SARS-CoV-2.