Image of John Wilkins, M.D.
John Wilkins, M.D.

When supplied with adequate personal protective equipment, healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus in the community than from patients, a large Illinois study finds.

Investigators analyzed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in more than 6,500 U.S. healthcare workers in an academic healthcare system. Nurses were the only provider group who had higher risks after accounting for community exposure, they found.

Procedures linked to the greatest likelihood of having antibodies to the coronavirus were participation in high-flow oxygen therapy and hemodialysis.

“This suggests that PPE is highly effective in acute exposures to SARS-CoV-2, but some longer exposures may still expose healthcare workers to increased risks for infection,” said John Wilkins, M.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.

Participants included nurses, doctors, non-patient facing administrators and other staff members. The academic healthcare system included 10 hospitals, 18 immediate care centers and 325 outpatient practices in the Chicago area and surrounding Illinois.

Full findings were published Tuesday in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases.