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Hospital attendance not associated with increased risk of Covid transmission

Hospital attendance not associated with increased risk of Covid transmission

Attending hospital more frequently does not increase the risk of having a positive Covid-19 result according to research undertaken at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. 

The researchers showed that living close to a Covid-19 epicentre was associated with a high chance of testing positive. In addition, the more tests a patient took was associated with a greater chance of testing positive. 

They concluded that attending hospital for cancer treatment was not associated with an increased chance in patients testing positive for Covid-19. The results are published in Future Oncology.

Data was analysed for the period between December 2020 and February 2021 during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when the alpha variant had become the dominant strain of Covid-19. The alpha variant is highly transmissible and is of particular concern for cancer patients who have a weakened immune system due to having cancer or undergoing treatment for cancer. 

During the second wave of the pandemic in England some cancer treatments were interrupted or stopped, and some follow up cancer care was disrupted, because of fears that patients have an increased risk of catching Covid-19 as a result of attending hospital.

The researchers analysed data from 1,346 patients who tested positive for Covid-19 but were asymptomatic and were attending Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust for cancer treatment. 

By examining information on the number of visits to hospital and the number of Covid-19 tests taken per patient, in combination with personal data from the hospital’s approved database, such as a patient’s age and postcode, the researchers were able to determine the probability of a patient testing positive for Covid-19 as a result of attending hospital, or whether a positive test was due to other variables.

Professor Mieke Van Hemelrijck from the school of cancer and pharmaceutical sciences at King’s College London, said: ‘From our analysis, we concluded that living closer to the epicentre of the alpha variant was associated with a high positive rate, as well as more tests taken increasing the likelihood of being positive. Therefore, we can conclude that attending the hospital does not increase the risk of transmission.’

The researchers suggest that correct use of PPE and social distancing are enough to manage the risks of infection posed to cancer patients when visiting hospital and that in-person delivery of cancer care should be continued.  

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