Lack of SARS Transmission among Healthcare Workers, United States

Healthcare workers accounted for a large proportion of persons with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) during the worldwide epidemic of early 2003. We conducted an investigation of healthcare workers exposed to laboratory-confirmed SARS patients in the United States to evaluate infection-control practices and possible SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) transmission. We identified 110 healthcare workers with exposure within droplet range (i.e., 3 feet) to six SARS-CoV–positive patients. Forty-five healthcare workers had exposure without any mask use, 72 had exposure without eye protection, and 40 reported direct skin-to-skin contact. Potential droplet- and aerosol-generating procedures were infrequent: 5% of healthcare workers manipulated a patient’s airway, and 4% administered aerosolized medication. Despite numerous unprotected exposures, there was no serologic evidence of healthcare-related SARS-CoV transmission. Lack of transmission in the United States may be related to the relative absence of high-risk procedures or patients, factors that may place healthcare workers at higher risk for infection.