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All patients and staff on the outbreak ward (case cluster), and randomly selected patients and staff on COVID-19 wards (positive control cluster) and a non-COVID-19 wards (negative control cluster) underwent reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Hand hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance, detection of environmental SARS-COV-2 RNA, patient behavior, and SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody prevalence were assessed.
In total, 145 staff and 26 patients were exposed, resulting in 24 secondary cases. Also, 4 of 14 (29%) staff and 7 of 10 (70%) patients were asymptomatic or presymptomatic. There was no difference in mean cycle threshold between asymptomatic or presymptomatic versus symptomatic individuals. None of 32 randomly selected staff from the control wards tested positive. Environmental RNA detection levels were higher on the COVID-19 ward than on the negative control ward (OR, 19.98; 95% CI, 2.63–906.38; P < .001). RNA levels on the COVID-19 ward (where there were no outbreaks) and the outbreak ward were similar (OR, 2.38; P = .18). Mean monthly hand hygiene compliance, based on 20,146 observations (over preceding year), was lower on the outbreak ward (P < .006). Compared to both control wards, the proportion of staff with detectable antibodies was higher on the outbreak ward (OR, 3.78; 95% CI, 1.01–14.25; P = .008).
Staff seroconversion was more likely during a short-term outbreak than from sustained duty on a COVID-19 ward. Environmental contamination and PPE use were similar on the outbreak and control wards. Patient noncompliance, decreased hand hygiene, and asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission were more frequent on the outbreak ward.
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