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Paramedics clean up their equipment outside Memorial West Hospital where patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated, in Pembroke Pines, Fla., July 13. Maria Alejandra Cardona / Reuters / FILE

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for patients with Covid-19 is not enough to completely eliminate the threat of the virus to frontline workers, according to a new study from King’s College London.

The study found that healthcare workers with adequate gloves, gowns and face masks still had a 3.4 times risk of contracting the coronavirus compared to the general population, and healthcare workers belonging to a minority had an even greater risk of testing positive.

The study found that African American, Latin American and other minority healthcare providers were 5 times more likely to contract Covid-19 than their white counterparts.

“Just over 20 percent of frontline healthcare workers reported at least one symptom associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to 14.4 percent of the general population; fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and hoarse voice were particularly common, ”the researchers wrote.

Researchers used the COVID Symptom Tracker app to study data from more than 2 million people, including nearly 100,000 frontline health workers in the US and UK between March 24 and April 23.

They found more than 2,700 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 health workers, compared to just over 240 cases per 100,000 in the general population.

“The data is clear showing that there is still a high risk of infection with SARS-Co-V-2 despite the availability of PPE,” said Sébastien Ourselin, professor at King’s College London and lead author of the study.

Not only did the researchers find that minority healthcare workers had an increased risk of Covid-19 infection, they also found that they were more likely to report a lack of adequate PPE and say that they were forced to reuse the equipment frequently, Ourselin said.

Previous studies have shown that 10-20% of coronavirus infections occur in frontline workers.

“Our study provides a more accurate assessment of the magnitude of the increased risk of infection among healthcare workers compared to the general community,” said Dr. Andrew Chang, lead author of the study and director of the study. cancer epidemiology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

At the time the study was conducted, healthcare providers in the US and UK were experiencing severe shortages of gloves, gowns and face masks. The authors said the results of a similar study may now be different.

“Many countries, including the United States, continue to face excruciating shortages of PPE,” Chang said. “Our results underscore the importance of providing adequate access to PPE and also suggest that the systemic racism associated with inequalities in access to PPE likely contributes to the disproportionate risk of infection among frontline healthcare workers belonging to minorities. “

Research suggests that healthcare systems should ensure adequate availability of PPE and develop additional strategies to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19, especially those from black, Asian and minority ethnic minorities.

The study was published in the journal Lancet Public Health on Friday.

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