I-Team: Could EMS crew coming to you have COVID-19 and not know it?

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has learned a new study shows some Cleveland paramedics and firefighters could come to your 911 call sick from COVID-19 without knowing it.

The findings come from researchers at MetroHealth Medical Center. They just spent months investigating the health of rescue crews, the risk they face in dealing with patients infected with the coronavirus, and the potential risk to you when those crews also respond to your calls for help after everyday medical emergencies.

The MetroHealth doctors sat down with the I-Team for the first public discussion of their research and what they found.

They did a study with 300 Cleveland EMS workers and firefighters. They discovered about 15 were currently infected with COVID-19, or they had been previously infected.

And, many didn’t realize it.

Dr. Yasir Tarabichi said, “And, we found, that of the small number of first responders that tested positive, half of them didn’t have any symptoms. So, this is the asymptomatic infection we keep hearing about.”

The doctors say what they saw with first-responders is similar to what researchers have found in the overall population.

But consider, Dr. Tarabichi added, “And, the concern is, if you don’t know you have it, and you go on around your regular day, there is the possibility you could be spreading it. And that’s a big danger for first-responders. They’re seeing patients. They’re interacting with each other.”

The doctors told the I-Team they had expected to find more paramedics and firefighters sick since  about 3 out of 4 had reported taking care of a COVID-19 patient.

Dr. Adam Perzynski said, “I think the most surprising thing was the rate of infection was generally low.”

You should know, we’ve learned any first-responders in the study found to be sick didn’t just keep rolling out of an ambulance to the next call. They were taken off the job for more testing or treatment.

Researchers also found most emergency crews have the equipment they need to protect themselves and you.

Dr. Perzynski added, “Every first-responder working in emergency services is doing the best to take care of themselves and the patient they’re working for.”

Dangerous job caring for the sick and dying. Now, this research could lead to more study.

And, the doctors say they’ve gotten interest from medical journals, so the study in Cleveland could end up with national attention.

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