Exposure, risks and immunity of healthcare workers (HCWs), a vital resource during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, warrant special attention.
HCWs at Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, filled in questionnaires and provided serum samples for SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody screening by Euroimmun IgG assay in March–April 2020. Positive/equivocal findings were confirmed by Abbott and microneutralization tests. Positivity by two of the three assays or RT-PCR indicated a Covid-19 case (CoV+).
The rate of CoV(+) was 3.3% (36/1095) and seropositivity 3.0% (33/1095). CoV(+) was associated with contact with a known Covid-19 case, and working on a Covid-19-dedicated ward or one with cases among staff. The rate in the Covid-19-dedicated ICU was negligible. Smoking and age <55 years were associated with decreased risk. CoV(+) was strongly associated with ageusia, anosmia, myalgia, fatigue, fever, and chest pressure. Seropositivity was recorded for 89.3% of those with prior documented RT-PCR-positivity and 2.4% of those RT-PCR-negative. The rate of previously unidentified cases was 0.7% (8/1067) and asymptomatic ones 0% (0/36).
Undiagnosed and asymptomatic cases among HCWs proved rare. An increased risk was associated with Covid-19-dedicated wards. Particularly high rates were seen for wards with liberal HCW-HCW contacts, highlighting the importance of social distancing also among HCWs.