One in Ten COVID Cases Infected After Hospital Admission

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In the UK’s first wave, more than one in ten COVID hospitalised patients acquired the disease in a hospital according to researchers conducting the world’s largest study of severe COVID.

Dr Jonathan Read from Lancaster University with colleagues from other UK universities led the research into hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) which was published in The Lancet.

For the study, researchers analysed records of COVID patients in UK hospitals enrolled in the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC) Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK (CCP-UK) study, who became ill before 1st August 2020.

The researchers found that at least 11.1% of COVID patients in 314 UK hospitals were infected after admission. The proportion of hospital-acquired infections also rose to between 16% and 20% in mid-May 2020, well after the first wave’s peak in admissions.

“We estimate between 5699 and 11 862 patients admitted in the first wave were infected during their stay in hospital. This is, unfortunately, likely to be an underestimate, as we did not include patients who may have been infected but discharged before they could be diagnosed,” the researchers said.

“Controlling viruses like SARS-CoV-2 has been difficult in the past, so the situation could have been much worse. However, infection control should remain a priority in hospitals and care facilities,” said Dr Read.

Dr Chris Green, University of Birmingham, said: “There are likely to be a number of reasons why many patients were infected in these care settings. These include the large numbers of patients admitted to hospitals with limited facilities for case isolation, limited access to rapid and reliable diagnostic testing in the early stages of the outbreak, the challenges around access to and best use of PPE, our understanding of when patients are most infectious in their illness, some misclassification of cases due to presentation with atypical symptoms, and an under-appreciation of the role of airborne transmission.”

According to the type of care provided, there were notable differences in infections. Lower proportions of hospital-acquired infection were seen in hospitals providing acute and general care (9.7%) than residential community care hospitals (61.9%) and mental health hospitals (67.5%).
Professor Calum Semple, University of Liverpool, said: “The reasons for the variation between settings that provide the same type of care requires urgent investigation to identify and promote best infection control practice. Research has now been commissioned to find out what was done well and what lessons need to be learned to improve patient safety.”

Source: Lancaster University

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