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Early in pandemic, more health care workers exposed to COVID-19 on the job than outside work: study

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Atlanta — Health care workers who were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic were more likely to have contracted the illness on the job rather than in household or community settings, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study has concluded.

The study results counter previous reports that suggest incidents of COVID-19 among the workers were primarily the result of non-occupational exposures.

Researchers examined national surveillance data from nearly 84,000 health care workers diagnosed with COVID-19 from the beginning of the pandemic through March 2021. Around 52% reported known exposures to SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – in their workplace. That’s compared with 30.8% who said they were likely exposed at home and 25.6% who believe they were exposed elsewhere. Eight percent reported multiple exposure settings.


In a press release, lead researcher Rachael M. Billock, an epidemiologist and member of CDC’s COVID-19 response team, said the workplace is “a major driver of infections” – despite what the previous reports suggest.

“These results emphasize the continued need for improved infection prevention and control measures in occupational settings, as well as the need for improved surveillance to identify and reduce occupational exposures to SARS-CoV-2 among HCPs and all workers,” Billock added.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Infection Control.

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