Carolyn Muegge, who recently earned her PhD in Epidemiology from the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and is a research scientist at the National Institute for Public Safety Health, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to study the prevalence and impact of COVID-19 on Indiana firefighters.
Dr. Muegge is co-investigator on the project, which aims to enhance the occupational health and safety of firefighters by understanding the nature and scope of COVID-19 in this occupational group.
The study’s results will be used to generate best practice guidelines to reduce firefighters’ risk for developing communicable diseases, and ultimately allow them to continue providing essential first-responder services during a pandemic.
Nearly 1700 firefighters from randomly selected large-, medium-, and small-sized fire departments will be recruited for COVID-19 antibodies testing during the study period. A phlebotomist will then travel to selected fire houses to draw blood specimens for analysis.
To track any changes in COVID-19 antibody measures that may occur as a result of being exposed to the virus or receiving a vaccination, participating firefighters will receive follow-up testing during their annual physical examinations occurring within 12 and 24-months after their initial test. Depression and anxiety questionnaires will also be completed by the firefighters at each data collection time period.
COVID-19 antibody test results will be linked with the firefighters’ existing physical examination dataset to allow comparisons of the following:
- clinical, laboratory, fitness and health behavioral characteristics (i.e. depression and anxiety) of firefighters who were infected and not infected with the virus,
- firefighters infected with and without symptoms,
- and firefighters with and without serious health outcomes or complications.
The resource guide that will be developed and disseminated following the study will include existing guidelines, the study’s results, and input from an expert advisory group.
To learn more about this study or Dr. Muegge’s first responder research, visit the NIPSH website.