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How One Hospital Kept COVID Transmissions at Nearly Zero

THURSDAY, Sept. 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Infection control measures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic kept transmission of the virus to patients within a Boston hospital at nearly zero, according to a new study.

The measures at Brigham and Women's Hospital included: masking of all patients, staff and visitors; dedicated COVID-19 units with airborne infection isolation rooms; personal protective equipment in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and restricted visitor policy.

In addition, employees and patients underwent daily symptom screening, and all patients were tested upon during admission to the hospital.

"Our data show that in a hospital with robust, rigorous infection control measures, it is very much possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients," said study co-author Dr. Chanu Rhee, an infectious disease and critical care physician and associate hospital epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's.

"This is an important finding as we know that many patients are avoiding essential care due to fear of contracting COVID-19 in health care settings. Our study shows that the hospital is in fact very safe, and if people need to go the hospital for care, they should go," Rhee added in a hospital news release.

The researchers analyzed data on all patients who tested positive for COVID-19 three days or later after hospital admission and up to 14 days after discharge during the first 12 weeks of the COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts.

The hospital cared for more than 9,000 inpatients during that time, including nearly 700 with COVID-19. But only two patients likely acquired the disease within the hospital, the researchers said.

It's believed that one of those patients acquired COVID-19 from his visiting spouse before the hospital implemented universal masking and visitors restrictions. The other patient had no clear exposures inside or outside the hospital, according to the study.

"Overall, our results should provide confidence to clinicians and patients around the country that currently recommended infection-control measures -- if carefully implemented and followed -- can prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the hospital," Rhee said.

The study can't pinpoint which infection control measures were most critical nor can it definitively determine the source of infection in every case. Also, the report may not be applicable to other hospitals that have adopted other infection control measures, the researchers noted.

They also didn't investigate infections among health care workers at the hospital, which is an important area that requires a separate, detailed analysis, according to the authors.

The study was published Sept. 9 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

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