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Posted on 18 Jun 2009 in Latest |

Nurses Failing To Take Swine Flu Safety Seriously Says CDC

Soon after identification of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infections in the United States in mid-April 2009, CDC provided interim recommendations to reduce the risk for transmission in health-care settings. These included recommendations on use of personal protective equipment (PPE), management of health-care personnel (HCP) after unprotected exposures, and instruction of ill HCP not to report to work (1). To better understand the risk for acquiring infection with the virus among HCP and the impact of infection-control recommendations, CDC solicited reports of infected HCP from state health departments. As of May 13, CDC had received 48 reports of confirmed or probable infections with novel influenza A (H1N1) virus* (2); of these, 26 reports included detailed case reports with information regarding risk factors that might have led to infection. Of the 26 cases, 13 (50%) HCP were deemed to have acquired infection in a health-care setting, including one instance of probable HCP to HCP transmission and 12 instances of probable or possible patient to HCP transmission.

Eleven HCP had probable or possible acquisition in the community, and two had no reported exposures in either health-care or community settings. Among 11 HCP with probable or possible patient to HCP acquisition and available information on PPE use, only three reported always using either a surgical mask or an N95 respirator. These findings suggest that transmission of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus to HCP is occurring in both health-care and community settings and that additional messages aimed at reinforcing current infection-control recommendations are needed.


After identifying the first two cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection in the United States on April 15, 2009, CDC requested that all state and local health departments implement enhanced surveillance for unsubtypable influenza A viruses (3). On May 4, CDC began distributing a data collection instrument to health departments to gather additional information on infected HCP. The instrument included questions on job type, facility type, contact with patients with novel influenza A (H1N1) infections or respiratory illness (i.e., pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infections, or influenza-like illness), and use of PPE (i.e., gloves, gowns, surgical masks, N95 respirators, or eye protection [goggles or face shield]). For this analysis, HCP were defined as employees, students, contractors, clinicians, or volunteers whose activities involved contact with patients in a health-care or laboratory setting. Only HCP with confirmed or probable novel influenza A (H1N1) infections were included in the analysis.
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Reports on HCP cases were reviewed by infection-control staff members at CDC. Cases were categorized, using criteria developed for this investigation, as having potential acquisition in the community or in a health-care setting.