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Seasonal influenza risk in hospital healthcare workers is more strongly associated with household than occupational exposures: results from a prospective cohort study in Berlin, Germany, 2006/07

Influenza immunisation for healthcare workers is encouraged to protect their often vulnerable patients but also due to a perceived higher risk for influenza. The researchers aimed to compare the risk of influenza infection in healthcare workers in acute hospital care with that in non-healthcare workers over the same season. They conducted a prospective, multicentre cohort study during the 2006/07 influenza season in Berlin, Germany. Recruited participants gave serum samples before and after the season, and completed questionnaires to determine their relevant exposures and possible confounding factors. The main outcome measure was serologically confirmed influenza infection (SCII), defined as a fourfold or greater rise in haemagglutination inhibition antibody titres to a circulating strain of influenza (with post-season titre at least 1:40). They recruited 250 hospital healthcare workers (mean age 35.7 years) and 486 non-healthcare workers (mean age 39.2 years) from administrative centres, blood donors and colleges. The results suggest that healthcare workers in hospitals do not have a higher risk of influenza than non-healthcare workers, although their risk of any respiratory infection is slightly raised. Household contacts seem to be more important than exposure to patients. Car ownership is a surprise finding which needs further exploration. Asymptomatic infections are common, accounting for around a third of serologically confirmed infections. BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:8 (12 January 2010).

Author: Williams CJ, Schweiger B, Diner G, et al

Published: 12/01/2010

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: BMC Infectious Diseases