Although some patients have been avoiding essential care due to fears of catching Covid-19 in hospitals, new research published in JAMA Network Open on Wednesday suggests it’s rare for people to catch the virus while at the hospital.
“Over the first 12 weeks of the pandemic in the US, our hospital cared for more than 9,000 patients, including approximately 700 with Covid-19 who were present for 8,656 hospital days,” researchers from the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute wrote. “Despite the high burden of Covid-19 in our hospital, we identified only two patients who likely acquired the infection in the hospital.”
There were 9,149 patients admitted to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital between March 7 and May 30, the first 12 weeks of the pandemic in the region.
The researchers reviewed all patients diagnosed with Covid-19 either on the third or later days of their time in hospital or who were diagnosed within 14 days of having been discharged from the hospital.
There were 697 initial diagnoses of Covid-19, 12 of which came three or more days into the patients’ hospital stay.
The only patient who definitely acquired Covid-19 in the hospital was most likely infected by a presymptomatic spouse who visited daily before their own diagnosis, one week before the patient started having symptoms. The case occurred before implementation of visitor restrictions and universal masking, the researchers said.
Community acquired infection was definite or likely for the other 11 patients.
Of the 8,370 patients who were hospitalized with non-Covid related conditions and discharged through June 17, there were 11 positive tests within the health care system for Covid-19 in the two weeks after discharge.
“Only one case was deemed to be likely hospital acquired, albeit with no known exposures inside the hospital,” the researchers said.