As healthcare professionals are on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic, it is no surprise that this is one of the most at-risk groups for exposure to Covid-19.
Before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic, and while the disease was still contained in China, 29% of patients treated at a hospital in Wuhan were healthcare staff. Over 75% of these healthcare staff worked on general wards, while the remainder were associated with the emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU).
In Europe, where the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths is relatively high, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has created guidelines for the proper use of personal protective equipment for medical staff. Specialists who are at particularly high risk of infection include anesthesiologists since they can be exposed to aerosols from patients with Covid-19. Procedures that may lead to the production of aerosols with viral particles include tracheal intubation, endotracheal tube replacement, and bronchial fibroscopy. These procedures are all related to the use of a ventilator system. To minimise the spread of Covid-19 to healthcare professionals, separate operating rooms should be used for patients infected with Covid-19. These operating rooms should be highly regulated with minimal entry and proper ventilation to ensure clean air. These rooms should also be sterilised before and after infected patients undergo procedures.
In the ICU, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) poses a threat to medical staff who carry out the life-saving technique on patients who are not known to have Covid-19. The spread of Covid-19 can be exacerbated when CPR takes place outside of an isolated room. Physicians who work in the ICU must be aware of the risks associated with coming into contact with patients who have contracted the virus in order to prevent themselves from becoming infected.
As with other similar diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), hospitals are becoming the main sources of Covid-19 transmissions, with infected patients transmitting the disease to non-infected patients and healthcare staff. While the medical system in developed countries is largely centred on hospitals, turning to home-based care for patients with Covid-19 would reduce viral transmission to other patients and healthcare workers. Governments should increase funding for mobile clinics and telemedicine. For patients with Covid-19 who require emergency procedures, special centres could be established specifically for these patients to reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19 to patients who have not contracted the coronavirus.