The Spread of COVID-19 Among 15,000 Physical Therapists in Italy: A Cross-Sectional Study

Scientific Committee of AIFI

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to explore the prevalence, personal- and work-related exposures, and signs and symptoms among physical therapists during the first wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Italy. METHODS: This cross-sectional, survey-based study collected demographic and exposure data from physical therapists from April to May 2020. All physical therapists working in inpatient and outpatient care in Italy were eligible. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed among all eligible physical therapists to collect (1) demographic characteristics, (2-3) personal- and work-related exposures, and (4) signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Factors associated with a COVID-19-positive nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) were explored through logistic regression models and multivariate methods. RESULTS: A total of 15,566 respondents completed the survey, with a response rate of 43.3%, achieving high statistical precision (99% CI, 1% type I error). Among physical therapists who received NPS testing, 13.1% (95% CI = 12.1-14.1%) had a positive result, with a peak reached in March 2020 (36%). The top 5 symptoms were fatigue and tiredness (69.1%), loss of smell (64.5%), aches and pains (60.8%), loss of taste (58.3%), and headache (51.1%). No symptoms were reported by 8.9%. Working in a health care institution (odds ratio [OR] = 12.0; 95% CI = 7.8-18.4), being reallocated to a different unit (OR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.3-2.7), and changing job tasks (OR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.2-2.3) increased the risk of being COVID-19 positive. In therapists with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, comorbidities were associated with male sex and age older than 51 years. CONCLUSION: During the first wave in Italy, almost 1 out of 7 physical therapists tested positive on the COVID-19 NPS test. Considering personal- and work-related exposures, health care organizations should adopt prevention measures and adequate preparedness to prevent high rate of infections during future pandemics. IMPACT: This is the largest investigation about the spread of and main risk factors for COVID-19 in the physical therapy field.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberpzab123
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number8
Early online date8 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Physical Therapy Association.


  • Coronavirus Infections
  • Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Pandemics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Prevention and Control
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transmission


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