Healthcare Workers Have 7-fold Increased Risk of Severe COVID-19

Dawn O'Shea

December 10, 2020

Healthcare workers have more than a seven-fold increased risk of severe COVID-19 compared to non-essential workers, with the risk rising almost nine-fold in medical support staff, finds research from the first UK-wide lockdown.

The study, published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, linked baseline UK Biobank data (2006-10) for England to SARS-CoV-2 test results from Public Health England (16 March to 26 July 2020).

Of 120,075 employees aged 49-64 years, 35,127 (29%) were classified as essential workers: healthcare (9%); social care and education (11%); ‘other’ to include police and those working in transport and food preparation (9%).

In all, 271 employees experienced severe COVID-19 infection. Healthcare professionals (doctors, pharmacists and medical support staff), health associate professionals (nurses and paramedics), social care, and transport workers had higher rates of severe COVID-19 than non-essential workers.

Relative to non-essential workers, healthcare workers (risk ratios [RRs], 7.43; 95% CI, 5.52-10.00), social and education workers (RR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.21-2.82) and other essential workers (RR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.05-2.45) had a higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Using more detailed groupings, medical support staff (RR, 8.70; 95% CI, 4.87-15.55), social care (RR, 2.46; 95% CI, 1.47-4.14) and transport workers (RR, 2.20; 95% CI, 1.21-4.00) had the highest risk within the broader groups.

Compared with white non-essential workers, non-white non-essential workers had a higher risk (RR, 3.27; 95% CI, 1.90-5.62) and non-white essential workers had the highest risk (RR, 8.34; 95% CI, 5.17 to 13.47).

Mutambudzi M, Niedwiedz C, Beaton Macdonald E, et al. Occupation and risk of severe COVID-19: prospective cohort study of 120 075 UK Biobank participants. Occup Environ Med. Epub 8 Dec 2020. doi:10.1136/oemed-2020-106731.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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