Occupational threat of COVID-19 in 3.5 million Norwegians

During the first wave of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, many people around the world were asked to stay home. As a result, the services and activities of many companies have either been reduced or stopped altogether. The pandemic has caused significant economic disruption around the world, particularly in countries like the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom, where increasing numbers of cases of severe coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with acute respiratory syndrome have been reported. the pathogen responsible for COVID-19.

Study: Occupational risk of COVID-19 in the 1st versus 2nd wave of infections. Photo credit: bekulnis / Shutterstock

A team of researchers from the Norwegian Public Health Institute tried to determine which workers and employees were more likely to contract COVID-19 in the first and second waves of the outbreak.

They found that nurses, dentists, doctors, physical therapists, taxi drivers and bus drivers were 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than anyone else of working age during the first wave of the outbreak. During the second wave of infections, waiters, bartenders, tour guides, counter clerks and taxi drivers were 1.5 to 4 times more likely to get COVID-19.

The study

The study, which was recently published on the medRxiv * pre-print server, aims to determine whether employees in jobs that normally involve close contact with other people are at greater risk of COVID-19 and associated hospital stays for the first and second wave of infection have In Norway.

To get to the results of the study, the researchers collected data from the BREDT C19 register, a newly developed emergency preparedness register that is supposed to provide information about the spread of COVID-19. It contains patient files from all hospitals in Norway, which gave researchers an insight into the situation in the country.

The team’s data also included results of the initial Positive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for SARS-CoV-2 of all residents in the country, including test and diagnostic data. In addition, the team was able to determine the occupation of the patients enrolled in the study, which can shed light on those who are at higher risk of infection.

The probability (95% confidence interval) of COVID-19 during the first wave of infections in Norway (February 26 to July 17, 2020), adjusted for age, gender and country of birth.  Everyone of working age (20-70 years) was the reference category (OR == 1, vertical red line).

The probability (95% confidence interval) of COVID-19 during the first wave of infections in Norway (February 26 to July 17, 2020), adjusted for age, gender and country of birth. Everyone of working age (20-70 years) was the reference category (OR == 1, vertical red line).

What the study found

Of the more than 3.55 million people between the ages of 20 and 70 who live in Norway, 51 percent are men and 78.8 percent were born in Norway. By October 20, more than 12,000 had been infected with SARS-CoV-2, of which 7.5 percent were hospitalized for serious illness.

The team also found that people employed as nurses, doctors, dentists, physical therapists, bus, tram and taxi drivers were 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 during the first wave of infections than other people of working age. In the meantime, teachers of schoolchildren of all ages, child minders, bartenders, salespeople, cleaning staff, waiters, hairdressers, fitness trainers, hotel receptionists, transport managers and tour guides have not had an increased risk of infection.

In the midst of a second wave of infections, the professions with the highest probability of infection include bartenders, waiters, tour guides, taxi drivers and food service employees. However, according to the study, there is no increased risk of infection in many professions, including teachers of children and students of all ages, child carers, fitness trainers, hairdressers, bus drivers, hotel receptionists, salespeople and health workers such as nurses, doctors, dentists and physical therapists.

The probability (95% confidence interval) of COVID-19 during the 2nd wave of infections in Norway (July 18 - October 20, 2020), adjusted for age, gender and country of birth.  Everyone of working age (20-70 years) was the reference category (OR == 1, vertical red line).

The probability (95% confidence interval) of COVID-19 during the 2nd wave of infections in Norway (July 18 – October 20, 2020), adjusted for age, gender and country of birth. Everyone of working age (20-70 years) was the reference category (OR == 1, vertical red line).

In terms of the outcome of hospitalization with COVID-19 infection, none of the occupations had an increased likelihood of severe COVID-19. However, dentists had a 7-fold higher risk ratio, while preschool teachers, child minders and taxi, tram or bus drivers had a 1 to 2-fold higher ratio.

“We believe this report is the first to highlight the COVID-19 risks of certain occupations for the entire workforce and all diagnosed people. Existing reports considered the associations in smaller populations, used broad occupational groups, and / or considered severe hospital-confirmed COVID-19 or mortality, ”the team explained in the study.

The team concluded that the occupations with the highest likelihood of infection during the first wave had shifted during the second wave.

This can be explained by the lockdown orders, since during the first wave most people were locked in their homes and businesses were closed. However, when restrictions were lifted and people were given access to restaurants and other public areas, workers in these occupations were exposed to more potential carriers of the virus.

“Our findings could be important in improving understanding of risk and transmission attitudes for COVID-19 and in contributing to more targeted measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission in public settings,” the team concluded.

* Important NOTE

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be considered conclusive, guide clinical practice / health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

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