A health care professional in the infectious diseases ward of Kainuu Central Hospital in Kajaani on 8 July 2020. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE INCIDENCE of coronavirus infections was not significantly higher in health care employees than other working-age people in Finland in 2020, reveals a report published by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

While health care employees make up 7.4 per cent of the working-age population, they accounted for 8.5 per cent of the infections detected last year in working-age people.

Health care employees, therefore, accounted for 2,601 of the 30,424 infections detected in working-age people in 2020. Across the population, the number of laboratory-confirmed infections stood at 36,650.

Fewer than a third (30%) of the infections in health care employees were traced back to a source at the workplace and a third (33%) to family and free-time contacts, according to THL. The source of over a third (37%) of the infections, by contrast, could not be determined.

“It may be difficult for health care employees to avoid contacts, as is the case for many other occupational groups that cannot work remotely. Infections are therefore a possibility on work trips, in workplace break rooms and during customer interaction if the hygiene measures are not sufficient,” commented Tuula Hannila-Handelberg, a chief physician at THL.

THL on Tuesday also revealed that five per cent of the health care employees who contracted the virus required hospital care and 18 per cent of them intensive care. The infectious diseases register has no record of a single health care employee dying of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Covid-19.

Health care employees were, however, over-represented in infection statistics last spring, accounting for 994, or 17 per cent, of the 5,599 infections detected in working-age people by 8 June.

The share dropped to less than 5.5 per cent for the 1,027 infections registered between 9 June and 31 August.

“Last spring, the need for hospital care was high and it took a while to figure out how you should protect yourself from the new [virus]. At the same time, testing was targeted at risk groups and health care employees, partly explaining the high share of infections last spring,” explained Hannila-Handelberg.

“In the summer, the number of infections was overall low, as was the need for hospital care.”

Women accounted for the vast majority, or 82 per cent, and men 18 per cent of the infections in health care employees, a distribution that reflects the statistical sex ratio in the health care industry. The median age of health care employees who tested positive for the virus was 40 years.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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