Original Research

COVID-19: Healthcare Workers May Be at Greater Risk Outside Their Work Environment—A Retrospective Observational Study

Khetam Hussein, Yael Shachor-Meyouhas, Halima Dabaja-Younis, Moran Szwarcwort-Cohen, Jalal Tarabeia, Avi Weissman, Michal Mekel, Gila Hyams, and Michael Halberthal


Background: With the availability of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, concerns have been raised regarding pre-vaccination seroprevalence in healthcare workers (HCW). This study examines the seroprevalence of HCW at an Israeli tertiary medical center before first BNT162b2 vaccination.

Methods: This was a retrospective observational study. Before vaccination, HCW at our center were offered serological testing. Data on their epidemiological, workplace, and quarantine history were collect¬ed. The SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay was performed pre-vaccination.

Results: A total of 4,519 (82.5%) of the HCW were tested. Of these, 210 were seropositive; 101 had no known history of COVID-19. Of the 101 asymptomatic HCW, only 3 (3%) had worked at COVID-19 depart¬ments, and 70 (69.3%) had not been previously quarantined. Positive serology was similarly distributed across age groups, and about 40% had no children. Nearly half of the HCW tested were administrative and service staff. Overall, seropositive tests were associated with having no children (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.06–1.89; P=0.0218), history of having been quarantined without proof of disease (OR 6.04, 95% CI 4.55–8.01; P<0.001), and Arab ethnicity (OR 3.36, 95% CI 2.54–4.43; P<0.001). Seropositivity was also more prevalent in members of the administration compared to other sectors, medical and paramedical, who are exposed to patients in their daily work (OR 1.365, 95% CI 1.02–1.82; P=0.04).

Conclusions: The low percentage of asymptomatic COVID-19 among our HCW may reflect the high compliance to personal protective equipment use despite treating hundreds of COVID-19 patients. The relatively high number of childless seropositive HCW could reflect misconceptions regarding children as a main source of infection, leading to carelessness regarding the need for appropriate out-of-hospital protection.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2022;13(2):e0011