Doctors, nurses getting A(H1N1)

The CDC stresses heightened awareness of transmission possibilities and strict adherence to infection control procedures.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted July 9, 2009

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More than 80 physicians, nurses and other health care workers had contracted influenza A(H1N1) by late June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An agency report on some of the infected workers revealed that about half were infected at work, and none had followed all of the CDC's recommended protective practices, which include the use of respirators, gloves and eye protection. There is no vaccine.

The report in the June 19 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report focuses on infected health care personnel detected through May 13 (link). Among them were four physicians, five registered nurses and four nursing assistants.

"This is a snapshot of what we knew up until that time," said Michael Bell, MD, associate director for infection control at the CDC, who spoke at a June 18 briefing.

Since May 13, the number of infected individuals with some relationship to health care delivery has grown, and detailed information on these workers will be released later, Dr. Bell said.

The report also found that health care facilities are not promptly identifying potentially infectious patients to allow workers the opportunity to protect themselves, Dr. Bell said. "Probably the single most important thing is that infectious patients be identified at the front door," he said.

It's important that people stay home if they're ill. "This means that health care facilities need to have appropriate leave policies in place, and health care personnel need to understand they won't be penalized for using sick leave appropriately," Dr. Bell said. Contracted employees also need to have sick-leave policies, he said.

During a June 26 CDC briefing, Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the agency estimates that at least 1 million people in the nation have been infected with the H1N1 virus, more than 3,000 have been hospitalized and 127 have died.

The disease is not going away, she said. The number of lab-confirmed cases reported to the CDC rose to nearly 28,000 by June 26, up from about 18,000 the week before -- the largest increase since numbers have been collected, Dr. Schuchat said.

H1N1 transmissions appear to be highest primarily in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. She said flu activity is expected throughout the summer and could increase in the fall.

The virus continues to have the greatest impact on young people, Dr. Schuchat said, and summer camps are being affected. The CDC has posted new online guidance for camps (link).

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