At the start of the coronavirus crisis in March, the population took up the habit of going outside at 20.00 in the evening to join in the applause for front-line health care workers.
Now a new study published in the British Medical Journal has shown that not only health care workers are running an an increased risk of contracting the Covid-19 infection themselves, but so are their families and other members of their household.
The study looked at 158,445 health care workers in Scotland, 57% of them working in positions where they were in contact with patients, as well as 229,905 members of their households. The period studied was March to June this year, at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Estimating the risk in this population is important to guide public health measures to protect healthcare workers and their families, maintain a functioning healthcare system, and control rates of secondary transmission within the community,” the authors write.
After adjusting for variables such as other health conditions, age, sex and ethnicity, it was found that the risk among health workers who were not patient-facing was roughly the same as for the population at large.
However workers who were in contact with patients were more than three times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, while those workers’ household members were twice as likely.
In addition, the survey looked at the risk level for those working in ‘front door’ positions – emergency rooms and other places where sick people first made contact – as well as intensive care, and found the likelihood of them being hospitalised with Covid-19 was more than twice that of the general population.
“Healthcare workers and their households contributed a sixth of Covid-19 cases admitted to hospital,” the study concludes. One in eight Scottish health workers admitted to intensive care and 2.5% of those died. One in five of the family members was admitted to intensive care and 12.9% of those died.
“Although the absolute risk of admission was low overall, patient-facing healthcare workers and their household members had threefold and twofold increased risks of admission with Covid-19. As well as having implications for the transmission of Covid-19 and the sustainability and deliverability of healthcare, these findings have implications for the safety and well-being of healthcare workers and their households.”