[Mild COVID-19 disease in healthcare workers at a German university clinic : The “first wave” at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf]


Healthcare workers are among the most exposed and potentially most threatened populations of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite some reports on numbers of infections with SARS-CoV‑2 in German healthcare workers, the courses of their clinical presentation when affected by COVID-19 are not well described.


In this contribution, characteristics and progressions of infected cases among healthcare workers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will be presented.


Between 1 July and 28 July 2020, 67 healthcare workers, who previously tested positive for SARS-CoV‑2 via PCR, were invited via E‑mail to participate in an anonymous online questionnaire; 39 persons participated.


Participants (58%) were mostly ≤ 39 years old (64%) and female (70%). Most healthcare workers were involved in direct patient management (85%), including contact with SARS-CoV‑2 positive patients (62%). All participants reported acute symptoms with a median duration of 19 days. The most frequent symptoms were fatigue (85%), anosmia (67%), cough (64%), headache (62%), and shortness of breath (51%). The disease course was mostly mild with low admission rates (5%). Ongoing symptoms lasting more than four weeks post-symptom-onset, particularly anosmia, fatigue, and shortness of breath, were reported by 38%. This group more frequently had pre-existing conditions (53% vs. 12%, p = 0.010), specifically hypertension (27% vs. 4%, p = 0.062).


Healthcare workers reported mostly mild courses of COVID-19 despite increased contact with SARS-CoV-2 patients. However, some reported persistent symptoms months after infection.


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BACKGROUND: Employees in health facilities are directly exposed and therefore particularly at risk in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite various reports on SARS-CoV-2 infection numbers among employees of German clinics, the course of COVID-19 in this particular population is poorly described.


This short article aims to present the characteristics and courses of infection cases among employees at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in the first wave of the pandemic.


In the period from July 1 to July 28, 2020, 67 employees who previously tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were invited via email to provide detailed information on the course of the disease in an anonymous online questionnaire; 39 people took part.


Most of the participants (58%) were ≤ 39 years old (64%) and female (70%). Most reported direct patient contact (85%), including SARS-CoV-2-positive patients (62%). The complaints lasted for a median of 19 days. 85% reported fatigue, 67% smell or taste disorders, 64% cough, 62% headache, and 51% shortness of breath. The courses were mostly mild; 5% were treated as inpatients. 38% reported persistent symptoms more than 4 weeks after the onset of symptoms, in particular odor or taste disorders, fatigue or shortness of breath. They had reported previous illnesses more frequently (53% vs. 12%, p = 0.010) and in particular arterial hypertension (27% vs. 4%, p = 0.062).


Health workers suffering from COVID-19 reported mostly mild courses despite regular contact with SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. However, some reported symptoms even after months.


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COVID-19; Course of disease; Healthcare workers; Infections; SARS-CoV‑2.



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