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Quantifying the contribution of pathways of nosocomial acquisition of COVID-19 in English hospitals.

Abstract

Current control strategies have successfully reduced the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between patients and HCWs. In order to reduce the burden of nosocomial COVID-19 infections on health services, stricter measures should be enforced that would inhibit the spread of the virus between bays or wards in the hospital. There should also be a focus on inhibiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 between HCWs. The findings have important implications for infection-control procedures in hospitals.

Between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, SARS-CoV-2 infections that were classified as nosocomial were identified in 0.5% (0.34-0.74) of patients admitted to an acute National Health Service trust. We found that the most likely route of nosocomial transmission to patients was indirect transmission from other infected patients, e.g. through HCWs acting as vectors or contaminated fomites, followed by direct transmission between patients in the same bay. The risk of transmission to patients from HCWs over this time period is low, but can contribute significantly when the number of infected inpatients is low. Further, the risk of a HCW acquiring SARS-CoV-2 in hospital is approximately equal to that in the community, thereby doubling their overall risk of infection. The most likely route of transmission to HCWs is transmission from other infected HCWs.

Despite evidence of the nosocomial transmission of novel coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in hospitals worldwide, the contributions of the pathways of transmission are poorly quantified.

We analysed national records of hospital admissions and discharges, linked to data on SARS-CoV-2 testing, using an individual-based model that considers patient-to-patient, patient-to-healthcare worker (HCW), HCW-to-patient and HCW-to-HCW transmission.

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