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Testing suggests 3% of NHS hospital staff may be unknowingly infected with coronavirus

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Hospital staff may be carrying SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, without realising they are infected, according to a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Patients admitted to NHS hospitals are now routinely screened for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and isolated if necessary. But NHS workers, including patient-facing staff on the front line, such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, are tested and excluded from work only if they develop symptoms of the illness. Many of them, however, may show no symptoms at all even if infected, as a new study published in the journal eLife demonstrates.

The implications of the new study, say senior authors Dr Mike Weekes and Professor Stephen Baker from the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID), are that hospitals need to be vigilant and introduce screening programmes across their workforces. 

“Test! Test! Test! And then test some more,” Dr Weekes explains. “All staff need to get tested regularly for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have any sort of symptoms – this will be vital to stop infection spreading within the hospital setting.”

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Source: University of Cambridge, 12 May 2020

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