Shocking stats emerged from a study carried out between Mid-July and Mid-October at Tallaght University Hospital. The voluntary study had 1,200 participants, representing about 1/3 of the staff at the hospital. Pulled from a wide range of professions within the hospital, clinical and non-clinical, the study produced the shocking result that almost 20 % of staff had been infected and produced coronavirus antibodies.
Not all people who come into contact with coronavirus will produce antibodies. So, there could be many others at Tallaght who have been infected. Staff who had direct contact with Covid-19 patients showed a positivity rate of 20%. While others, without direct contact with Covid patients, showed a rate of 13%. Giving an overall figure of 18%. This shows that coronavirus was spreading throughout the hospital and out of clinical settings.
Only 12% of the study’s participants who tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies already knew that they’d had the illness. They had had positive Covid-19 swab tests prior to the study. Some of the rest had suspicions that they may have had the virus but had not had it confirmed.
Commenting on the study, consultant microbiologist Dr Anna Rose Prior said the results show that a “high proportion of Covid infection in healthcare workers goes undetected”.
Healthcare workers account for 21.8% of all Covid-19 cases in Ireland. It was expected that the number of those showing positive results from the antibody tests would be higher than those in the general population. Research conducted earlier this summer found that 1.7% of Irish people in the general population had Covid-19 antibodies. The researchers in Tallaght were not expecting this level of positive results, however.
The study shows that, at least amongst hospital workers, the Covid-19 infection rate is much higher than first thought. The number of people who’ve had Covid-19 without knowing it is likely to be many multiples of the known and confirmed cases.