This prospective cohort study, performed during the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, was aimed to determine whether adults working in acute care hospitals were at higher risk than other working adults for influenza and to assess risk factors for influenza among health care workers (HCWs). We assessed the risk for influenza among 563 HCWs and 169 non-HCWs using PCR to test nasal swab samples collected during acute respiratory illness; results for 13 (2.2%) HCWs and 7 (4.1%) non-HCWs were positive for influenza. Influenza infection was associated with contact with family members who had acute respiratory illnesses (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 6.9, 95% CI 2.2–21.8); performing aerosol-generating medical procedures (AOR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1–3.5); and low self-reported adherence to hand hygiene recommendations (AOR 0.9, 95% CI 0.7–1.0). Contact with persons with acute respiratory illness, rather than workplace, was associated with influenza infection. Adherence to infection control recommendations may prevent influenza among HCWs.
The numerous outbreaks of influenza described in acute care hospitals indicate that influenza transmission in this setting is of major concern (1–3). Nonetheless, it remains unclear whether health care workers (HCWs) are at higher risk for infection than are adults working in nonclinical settings (non-HCWs). Vaccination recommendations for HCWs are intended primarily to protect patients from hospital-acquired influenza and influenza-associated death (4,5). Although working in hospitals has been proposed as a risk factor for influenza (6), findings that support that working in health care settings poses an occupational risk (7), or that performing particular activities or working in specific health care disciplines are associated with an increased risk for influenza infection, are sparse.
Better understanding of risk factors for infection among HCWs would support decision-making regarding priorities for seasonal influenza vaccination, antiviral treatment or prophylaxis programs, implementation of other measures to reduce influenza transmission in hospitals, and planning for pandemics. Therefore, we aimed to assess risk factors for influenza among HCWs and to determine whether, during the first 2 waves of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, HCWs working in acute care hospitals were at higher risk than non-HCWs for symptomatic influenza.