Professor Kwok-yung Yuen

Employee best-practice adherence is being credited for zero healthcare workers contracting the coronavirus after six weeks of exposure during the outbreak, experts say.

Among 413 healthcare workers who treated confirmed cases at Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, 11 had unprotected exposure to the patients and were quarantined for 14 days. None became ill. In addition, no hospital-acquired infections were found in patients after the first six weeks of the outbreak.

In total, the hospital tested 1,275 suspected cases and treated 42 active cases of the virus during the period studied. 

To contain the virus, the hospital’s strategy was to step up screening and quarantine along with infection control measures during the early weeks of the outbreak, said study corresponding author Kwok-Yung Yuen.

Confirmed patients were immediately quarantined, either in an airborne infection isolation room or in a ward with at least a meter of space between patients. Enhanced infection control measures included:

  • personal protective equipment training
  • staff forums on infection control
  • face-to-face education sessions
  • regular hand-hygiene compliance assessments

Administrators also increased the use of PPE for workers performing endotracheal intubations or open suctioning for all patients — not only those with COVD-19, reported Yuen, a professor with the University of Hong Kong.

“Vigilance in hand-hygiene practice, wearing of surgical masks in the hospital, and appropriate use of personal protective equipment in patient care, especially when performing aerosol-generating procedures, are the key infection control measures to prevent hospital transmission of the virus,” he said.

The study also examined airborne and surface coronavirus transmission, and the authors concluded that these factors probably play a lesser role than person-to-person virus transmission.

Full findings were published online Thursday in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology