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Nosocomial outbreaks leading to healthcare worker (HCW) infection and death have been increasingly reported during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
We implemented a strategy to reduce nosocomial acquisition.
We summarized our experience in implementing a multipronged infection control strategy in the first 300 days (December 31, 2019, to October 25, 2020) of the COVID-19 pandemic under the governance of Hospital Authority in Hong Kong.
Of 5,296 COVID-19 patients, 4,808 (90.8%) were diagnosed in the first pandemic wave (142 cases), second wave (896 cases), and third wave (3,770 cases) in Hong Kong. With the exception of 1 patient who died before admission, all COVID-19 patients were admitted to the public healthcare system for a total of 78,834 COVID-19 patient days. The median length of stay was 13 days (range, 1–128). Of 81,955 HCWs, 38 HCWs (0.05%; 2 doctors and 11 nurses and 25 nonprofessional staff) acquired COVID-19. With the exception of 5 of 38 HCWs (13.2%) infected by HCW-to-HCW transmission in the nonclinical settings, no HCW had documented transmission from COVID-19 patients in the hospitals. The incidence of COVID-19 among HCWs was significantly lower than that of our general population (0.46 per 1,000 HCWs vs 0.71 per 1,000 population; P = .008). The incidence of COVID-19 among professional staff was significantly lower than that of nonprofessional staff (0.30 vs 0.66 per 1,000 full-time equivalent; P = .022).
A hospital-based approach spared our healthcare service from being overloaded. With our multipronged infection control strategy, no nosocomial COVID-19 in was identified among HCWs in the first 300 days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong.
The role of severe respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)–laden aerosols in the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains uncertain. Discordant findings of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in air samples were noted in early reports.
Sampling of air close to 6 asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients with and without surgical masks was performed with sampling devices using sterile gelatin filters. Frequently touched environmental surfaces near 21 patients were swabbed before daily environmental disinfection. The correlation between the viral loads of patients’ clinical samples and environmental samples was analyzed.
All air samples were negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the 6 patients singly isolated inside airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIRs) with 12 air changes per hour. Of 377 environmental samples near 21 patients, 19 (5.0%) were positive by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, with a median viral load of 9.2 × 102 copies/mL (range, 1.1 × 102 to 9.4 × 104 copies/mL). The contamination rate was highest on patients’ mobile phones (6 of 77, 7.8%), followed by bed rails (4 of 74, 5.4%) and toilet door handles (4 of 76, 5.3%). We detected a significant correlation between viral load ranges in clinical samples and positivity rate of environmental samples (P < .001).
SARS-CoV-2 RNA was not detectable by air samplers, which suggests that the airborne route is not the predominant mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Wearing a surgical mask, appropriate hand hygiene, and thorough environmental disinfection are sufficient infection control measures for COVID-19 patients isolated singly in AIIRs. However, this conclusion may not apply during aerosol-generating procedures or in cohort wards with large numbers of COVID-19 patients.
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