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Staff surveillance is crucial during the containment phase of a pandemic to help reduce potential healthcare-associated transmission and sustain good staff morale. During an outbreak of SARS-COV-2 with community transmission, our institution used an integrated strategy for early detection and containment of COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers (HCWs).
Our strategy comprised 3 key components: (1) enforcing reporting of HCWs with acute respiratory illness (ARI) to our institution’s staff clinic for monitoring; (2) conducting ongoing syndromic surveillance to obtain early warning of potential clusters of COVID-19; and (3) outbreak investigation and management.
Over a 16-week surveillance period, we detected 14 cases of COVID-19 among HCWs with ARI symptoms. Two of the cases were linked epidemiologically and thus constituted a COVID-19 cluster with intrahospital HCW–HCW transmission; we also detected 1 family cluster and 2 clusters among HCWs who shared accommodation. No transmission to HCWs or patients was detected after containment measures were instituted. Early detection minimized the number of HCWs requiring quarantine, hence preserving continuity of service during an ongoing pandemic.
An integrated surveillance strategy, outbreak management, and encouraging individual responsibility were successful in early detection of clusters of COVID-19 among HCWs. With ongoing local transmission, vigilance must be maintained for intrahospital spread in nonclinical areas where social mingling of HCWs occurs. Because most individuals with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, addressing presenteeism is crucial to minimize potential staff and patient exposure.
Patients with COVID-19 may present with respiratory syndromes indistinguishable from those caused by common viruses. Early isolation and containment is challenging. Although screening all patients with respiratory symptoms for COVID-19 has been recommended, the practicality of such an effort has yet to be assessed.
Over a 6-week period during a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, our institution introduced a “respiratory surveillance ward” (RSW) to segregate all patients with respiratory symptoms in designated areas, where appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) could be utilized until SARS-CoV-2 testing was done. Patients could be transferred when SARS-CoV-2 tests were negative on 2 consecutive occasions, 24 hours apart.
Over the study period, 1,178 patients were admitted to the RSWs. The mean length-of-stay (LOS) was 1.89 days (SD, 1.23). Among confirmed cases of pneumonia admitted to the RSW, 5 of 310 patients (1.61%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. This finding was comparable to the pickup rate from our isolation ward. In total, 126 HCWs were potentially exposed to these cases; however, only 3 (2.38%) required quarantine because most used appropriate PPE. In addition, 13 inpatients overlapped with the index cases during their stay in the RSW; of these 13 exposed inpatients, 1 patient subsequently developed COVID-19 after exposure. No patient–HCW transmission was detected despite intensive surveillance.
Our institution successfully utilized the strategy of an RSW over a 6-week period to contain a cluster of COVID-19 cases and to prevent patient–HCW transmission. However, this method was resource-intensive in terms of testing and bed capacity.
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