Monday 10/25/21

13.5% of coronavirus-infected patients are healthcare workers

The figure varies worldwide: 20% of infections in Spain, 10% in Italy or 3.8% in China have been diagnosed among healthcare workers.
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In Finland, 13,5% of people infected with coronavirus are healthcare workers.

According to the latest figures published by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), as of Monday 8 June, a total of 7,001 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Finland. Of these, 5,599 (or 80%) have been diagnosed in working-age patients and 949 of these (13.5% of the total number of infections) in healthcare workers. 

In 2019, some 7.4% of all working-age people worked in health services. The share of healthcare workers of all working-age people diagnosed with coronavirus is higher – around 17%. 

"The higher share is probably due to the fact that, in the early stages of the epidemic, testing focused on not only on tourists but also in particular on health professionals. Currently, all those with mild symptoms are tested on a low threshold,” says Taneli Puumalainen, Chief Physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

8.4% of healthcare workers infected with coronavirus have been hospitalised. Thus far, no cases where persons working in health care have died because of the coronavirus have been reported to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare's National Infectious Diseases Register. Detailed background information is not yet available on all confirmed cases.

Exposure both at work and elsewhere

Of the healthcare workers infected with coronavirus, 652 had been in close contact with persons who had tested positive for coronavirus. Of them, 367, or 56%, were in close contact at work and 285 elsewhere, for example their close friends and family or in connection with tourism.

"Even so, exposure in the workplace does not necessarily mean that a healthcare worker has been infected by a patient, as appropriate protective equipment has most likely been used when treating patients," THL says. Exposure may also involve close contact with, for example, a work colleague who has become ill.

"During the corona pandemic, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in cooperation with infection experts in hospital districts, have issued guidelines for social welfare and health care employees on how to protect oneself. Based on these guidelines, different operating units have drawn up their own procedures and trained employees in the use of protective equipment. As the situation has changed the guidelines have also been updated,” says Puumalainen.

Differences in the number of infections

The share of coronavirus infections among healthcare workers in relation to all confirmed infections worldwide varies. In Europe, for example, 20% of infections in Spain and 10% of infections in Italy have been diagnosed among healthcare workers. In China, this figure is 3.8%, and in the United States it is 3%.

"However, we do not know whether healthcare workers have been infected at the workplace or outside of it. There may also be differences in the monitoring systems, testing practices and reporting in different countries, and, thus, the figures should not be directly compared,” explains Puumalainen. 

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