Healthcare News: Healthcare Staff Have 7 Fold Risk Of Developing Severe COVID-19 Compared To Other Professions
: According to a new study by researchers from the University of Glasgow-UK, healthcare workers are 7 times as likely to have severe COVID-19 infection as those with other types of 'non-essential' jobs.
The study findings were based on the first UK-wide lockdown and are published online in the peer- reviewed journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. https://eprints.gla.ac.uk/225950/
The study results showed that of 120,075 participants, 271 had severe COVID-19. Relative to non-essential workers, healthcare workers (RR 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 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 highest risk within the broader groups. Compared to 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:5.17,13.47).
The study also found that those with jobs in the social care and transport sectors are twice as likely to do so, emphasizing the need to ensure that essential (key) workers are adequately protected against the infection.
To date only a small number of studies have looked at the differences in the risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection between different groups of workers. While it's known that those working in healthcare roles are at heightened risk, it's not clear what the risks might be for those working in other sectors.
The study team therefore compared the risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection in essential and non-essential workers, drawing on linked data from the UK Biobank study (2006-10), COVID-19 test results from Public Health England, and recorded deaths for the period 16 March to 26 July 2020.
Importantly the UK Biobank is a long term study tracking the factors potentially influencing the development of disease in around half a million middle and older age adults.
For the study, severe infection was defined as a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, while in hospital, or death attributable to the virus.
The research included 120,075 employees aged 49-64. Of these, 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%)
The study found that those of Black and Asian ethnicities comprised nearly 3% each of the total. They were more likely to be essential workers, as were women.
Altogether 271 employees had severe COVID-19 infection. Healthcare professionals, defined as doctors and pharmacists; medical support staff; health associate professionals, defined as nurses and paramedics; and social care and transport workers had higher rates of severe COVID-19 than non-essential workers.
When compared with non-essential workers, those working in healthca
re roles were more than 7 times as likely to have severe infection.
Also those working in social care and in education were 84% as likely to do so; while 'other' essential workers had a 60% higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.
However when the researchers refined the employment categories further, it emerged that medical support staff were nearly 9 times as likely to develop severe disease; those in social care almost 2.5 times as likely to do so; while transport workers were twice as likely to do so.
Interestingly when the researchers looked at the impact of ethnicity, they found that the risks of severe infection for Black and Asian non-essential workers were similar to those for white essential workers, suggesting that ethnicity is a key factor.
The study also found that non-essential workers of Black and Asian backgrounds were also more than 3 times as likely to develop severe COVID-19 infection as white non-essential workers, while Black and Asian essential workers were more than 8 times as likely to do so.
Importantly with the exception of transport workers, for whom heightened risk of severe COVID-19 infection was linked to socioeconomic status, the findings held true even after accounting for potentially influential risk factors, including lifestyle, co-existing health problems, and work patterns.
However this is an observational study, and therefore can't establish cause. And the authors acknowledge that their initial background data were collected more than a decade ago, so they were unable to account for any changes in health, lifestyle, income and employment status. The UK Biobank is also not representative of the broader population.
Also the study team was not able to take account of the changes in risk over time, such as the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Still the findings echo those of other studies, they point out.
The study team concluded, "Our findings reinforce the need for adequate health and safety arrangements and provision of PPE for essential workers, especially in the health and social care sectors. The health and wellbeing of essential workers is critical to limiting the spread and managing the burden of global pandemics."
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