More than 20 percent of health care workers reported at least one symptom.By Dr. Maria Simbra

By: KDKA’s Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Even with personal protective equipment, a new study in The Lancet medical journal found health care workers are three times more likely to contract the coronavirus.

“It shows we need to be vigilant. We, as health care workers, need to set the example. I think we need to be very cautious as we’re walking into patients’ rooms,” says AHN Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine physician Dr. Anil Singh.

The researchers used the COVID Symptom Tracker app and studied the data of more than 2 million people in the U.S. and the U.K. from late March to late April. This included 100,000 health care workers.

More than 20 percent of health care workers reported at least one symptom, such as fatigue or loss of smell or taste, whereas only 14 percent of the general population did.

And 2,700 health care workers per 100,000 were infected compared to 240 per 100,000 in the general population. This was despite health care workers using gowns, gloves and masks.

“This was a survey on an app that patients self-report,” says Dr. Singh. “So I think we have to take that with a grain of salt.”

Dr. Singh does not believe these infections are because of patient care but rather from community-acquired infection and lapses in PPE at work.

“Going then into a break room, you’re taking off your masks, you’re trying to take a break, and it’s potentially exposing somebody else,” said Dr. Singh.

Also, the time period of the study was when PPE supplies were stretched thin and that may have played a role in employee infection. Dr. Singh says not one of the 46 physicians in his group become infected.

“And they’re seeing (patients with COVID-19) on almost a daily basis in an ICU with aerosol-generating type procedures. They’re not getting it because we’re very stringent about appropriate PPE. We’re appropriately cleaning it. We’re appropriately donning it. And we’re very thankful for that,” Dr. Singh said.

The researchers also looked at demographics and found Black, Asians, and other minorities are five times as likely to be infected.

Dr. Singh says health care workers must set the example of wearing masks in public and being cautious about their activities and interactions.

Dr. Maria Simbra