Many health care workers drop out due to covid-19. Amsterdam UMC conducted research from March to June 2020: how often does this occur, which care workers are most at risk and how is the transmission? Staff in the corona departments most often become infected. There are important indications that staff members transferred the virus among themselves.


The researchers found that 13.2 percent of the staff who worked with corona patients had antibodies in their blood. Among staff without patient contact, the figure was 3.6 percent. For staff who had direct contact with patients, but not in corona care, the percentage was 6.7 percent. The researchers then divided the group that worked with corona patients. They were divided into healthcare professionals in the corona nursing wards, the intensive care unit (ICU) and the emergency room. It turned out that staff in the corona wards had the most antibodies (25.7 percent), more often than staff in the ICU (7.0 percent) and the emergency room (8.1 percent). When comparing genetic material of viruses from sick staff and patients, the researchers found remarkably no evidence of contamination by patients. They did, however, find evidence of transmission between hospital staff.

Keep your distance, wash your hands

Researchers Jonne Sikkens and Marije Bomers of Internal Medicine: "The reason for our research was to see whether the personal protection measures we take when dealing with covid-19 patients are sufficient. We were afraid that the sick employees we see so often in health care might still be infected at the bedside. Although we cannot exclude this, we have not found it," the researchers say. It seems more likely that contamination occurs between employees. "That is why we have intensified the hygiene rules and paid more attention to working safely and complying with infection prevention measures, such as keeping one and a half metres away. In the meantime, employees wear mouth-nose masks as standard. Follow-up research is needed to map out the current situation. Nevertheless, we also recommend other hospitals to carefully observe the hygiene rules, especially in the cohort departments, and to keep sufficient distance."

The study was published preprint on medRxiv.

The study was realised partly thanks to Amsterdam UMC Corona Research Fund and the ZonMw COVID-19 programme.