Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 June 2021
Patients admitted to the hospital may unknowingly carry severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and hospitals have implemented SARS-CoV-2 admission screening. However, because SARS-CoV-2 reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays may remain positive for months after infection, positive results may represent active or past infection. We determined the prevalence and infectiousness of patients who were admitted for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 but tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on admission screening.
We conducted an observational study at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics from July 7 to October 25, 2020. All patients admitted without suspicion of COVID-19 were included, and medical records of those with a positive admission screening test were reviewed. Infectiousness was determined using patient history, PCR cycle threshold (Ct) value, and serology.
In total, 5,913 patients were screened and admitted for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Of these, 101 had positive admission RT-PCR results; 36 of these patients were excluded because they had respiratory signs/symptoms on admission on chart review. Also, 65 patients (1.1%) did not have respiratory symptoms. Finally, 55 patients had Ct values available and were included in this analysis. The median age of the final cohort was 56 years and 51% were male. Our assessment revealed that 23 patients (42%) were likely infectious. The median duration of in-hospital isolation was 5 days for those likely infectious and 2 days for those deemed noninfectious.
SARS-CoV-2 was infrequent among patients admitted for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. An assessment of the likelihood of infectiousness using clinical history, RT-PCR Ct values, and serology may help in making the determination to discontinue isolation and conserve resources.