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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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