Preprint finds 3 specialties at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 — 4 takeaways

Anesthesiologists, emergency medicine and ophthalmology physicians face the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, suggests new data explained by Medscape.

Four takeaways:

1. Led by Royce Chen, MD, a preprint study published on medRxiv examined how COVID-19 affected resident physicians in New York City. Residency program directors were surveyed about how many of their residents contracted the virus from March 2 to April 12. The findings have not been peer-reviewed.

2. Researchers received 91 responses, which represented 24 specialties and 2,306 residents. At least one resident tested positive for COVID-19 in 45.1 percent of programs. There were 101 confirmed positive cases among resident physicians, as well as an additional 163 residents presumed to be positive for COVID-19.

3. Infection risk differed by specialty, researchers found. They weren't surprised that emergency medicine and anesthesiology specialists were at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, but ophthalmology seemed unusual, according to Dr. Chen, director of the ophthalmology residency program at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

"People think of [ophthalmology] as outpatient, low-acuity, but the patient and doctor are less than 2 feet apart," Dr. Chen told Medscape. "And neither patients nor physicians were wearing masks at the beginning of March."

Additionally, some research has shown that COVID-19 can spread through the eyes.

4. The study's limitations include that it's a preprint and lacks comparison to attending physicians, according to A. Elisabeth Abramowicz, MD, director of the Valhalla, N.Y.-based Westchester Medical Center Anesthesiology Residency Training Program. Only specialties that received over 100 responses were included, and personal protective equipment use has improved since the survey was distributed, so results could differ today if the survey were repeated.

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