Grocery store staff can be Covid super-spreaders: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 30, 2020 Published on October 30, 2020

Employees working at grocery stores are at an increased risk of getting infected with the coronavirus, according to a study. The risk is five times more for those who deal with customers on a regular basis, it said.

The findings were published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. It revealed that grocery workers can act as super-spreaders as three out of four, who tested positive for the virus, demonstrated no Covid-19 symptoms.

For the study, the researchers analysed 104 employees of a grocery store in Boston, Massachusetts. Each employee was tested for SARS-CoV-2.

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For the preliminary investigation, the researchers also formulated detailed questionnaires on their lifestyle, medical history, employment history, working patterns and role at the store, commuting to and from work, and the protective measures they were able to take against infection at work.

The team also asked the workers to provide information on their Covid-19 symptoms and exposure to anyone with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 over the past 14 days.

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The findings revealed that one in five (21 out of 104) workers tested positive for the virus, indicating a prevalence of 20 per cent at that point in time. This was significantly higher than the prevalence of the infection in the local community at the time: 0.9-1.3 per cent.

The study noted that three out of four of those testing positive (76 per cent) were asymptomatic. And of those testing positive, most (91 per cent) had a customer-facing role.

The authors wrote in their study: "This is the first study to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks, and associated psychological distress of grocery retail essential workers during the pandemic."

They added: "Once essential workers are infected with SARS-CoV-2, they may become a significant transmission source for the community they serve."

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Published on October 30, 2020
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