Background: The emergency medical service (EMS) workforce is at high risk of occupationally-acquired infections. This review synthesized existing literature on the prevalence, incidence, and severity of infections in the EMS workforce.
Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and SCOPUS from January 1, 2006 to March 15, 2022 for studies in the US that involved EMS clinician or firefighter populations and reported 1 or more health outcomes related to occupationally-acquired infections.
Results: Of the 25 studies that met the inclusion criteria, most focused on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, with prevalence rates ranging from 1.1% to 36.2% (median 6.7%). The prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in 4 studies ranged from 1.9% to 6.4%, and the prevalence of Hepatitis C in 1 study was 1.3%. Few studies reported incidence rates. The prevalence or incidence of these infections generally did not differ by age or gender, but 4 studies reported differences by race or ethnicity. In the 4 studies that compared infection rates between EMS clinicians and firefighters, EMS clinicians had a higher chance of hospitalization or death from SAR-CoV-2 (odds ratio 4.23), a higher prevalence of Hepatitis C in another study (odds ratio 1.74), and no significant difference in MRSA colonization in a separate study.
Conclusions: More research is needed to better characterize the incidence and severity of occupationally-acquired infections in the EMS workforce.
Keywords: Firefighters; Occupationally-acquired infections; Prehospital; Systematic review.
Copyright © 2022 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.