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One in 10 COVID-19 patients in UK caught virus in hospital

London: During the first wave of the pandemic, more than one in 10 COVID-19 patients in the UK caught the virus while they were in hospital for other reasons, researchers reported in The Lancet.

The study was based on data from 314 hospitals related to diagnoses that were made before August 2020.

The researchers identified patients as having hospital-acquired infections using a combination of their admission date and symptom onset date, and estimates of their infection date based on the known incubation period distribution of SARS-CoV-2. To incorporate uncertainty in individual patient’s incubation periods, they imputed infection dates for patients and identified those admitted before infection as having hospital-acquired infections, their report said.

A patient is taken from an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London last year.

A patient is taken from an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London last year.Credit:Getty Images

They said hospitals providing acute and general care had lower hospital-acquired infection proportions than residential community care hospitals and mental health hospitals, reflecting outbreaks seen in care homes. “The reasons for the variation between hospitals providing the same type of care require urgent investigation to identify and promote best infection control practice for future treatment of COVID-19 patients,” they wrote.

Dr Chris Green of the University of Birmingham, who co-authored the report, said in a statement that the early lack of resources – such as rapid, reliable tests for the virus, personal protective equipment, and isolation facilities – and “under-appreciation of the role of airborne transmission” contributed to the UK’s high rate of hospital-acquired COVID-19.


In the United States, doctors at a large New York cancer hospital found less than 1 per cent of patients became infected while hospitalised from March 2020 through February 2021, according to a study published last month in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Separately, a large Harvard University teaching hospital reported just one case of hospital-acquired COVID-19 among 8370 patients during the first four months of the pandemic, thanks to “rigorous infection control measures”. The doctors reported in JAMA Network Open last September, “These results, especially if replicated at other U.S. hospitals, should provide reassurance to patients.”

Reuters, staff reporters

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