Risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission ‘quite high’ among hospital roommates
Nearly 40% of patients who shared a hospital room with a patient with SARS-CoV-2 at one Boston hospital became infected within 14 days, according to study results published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The researchers concluded that “nosocomial spread of SARS-CoV-2 is relatively rare with standard infection protocols” but “there is a high risk of transmission for patients in shared hospital rooms if their roommate is acutely infected.”
Three of the researchers — Abraar Karan, MD, MPH, DTM&H, an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and Brigham & Women’s epidemiologists Michael Klompas, MD, MPH, and Chanu Rhee, MD, MPH — answered questions about the study.
“The risk of COVID-19 spread is quite high if you find yourself in a room with someone that is contagious with the virus for several hours,” they told Healio. “Remember that this type of scenario could happen at home — it can happen in workplaces, it can happen anywhere, and spread happens even before people show symptoms. In fact, hospitals have better ventilation than in the community. This is another piece of data telling us to be extra careful, especially during surges of the virus.”
The researchers analyzed SARS-CoV-2 transmission among 11,290 patients who shared rooms at the hospital between September 2020 and April 2021. They calculated the percentage of exposed roommates who had a positive COVID-19 test within 2 weeks after exposure and analyzed risk factors for transmission.
A total of 25 patients tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, of whom eight were tested via the hospital’s retesting policy, seven via cluster investigations, four via testing for new symptoms, four via admission tests, one via preprocedural testing and one during readmission.
Among 31 patients who shared a room with a patient with SARS-CoV-2, 12 (39%) tested positive for the virus.
Karan, Klompas and Rhee said it is “essential” for clinicians to consider that spread of the virus is possible within hospitals but noted that the chance is low with good infection control policies in place.
“Hospitals must balance the need to provide essential care for patients against the risk for transmission in shared patient rooms, so during times of high community incidence (or during hospital-based outbreaks), they should consider mitigation strategies like rapid testing, serial testing, and only placing vaccinated patients in shared rooms,” they said.