Slightly more than 41% of health care personnel who had the flu during the 2014-2015 influenza season went to work while they were ill, according to an annual survey.

Physicians, however, were well above this average, with 63% reporting they had worked with an influenza-like illness (ILI); they were not quite as far above average as pharmacists, though, who had a 67% rate of “presenteeism” – the highest among all of the health care occupations included in the survey, said Sophia Chiu, MD, MPH, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and her associates.

With a presenteeism rate of 47%, nurses were also above average, whereas assistants/aides (40.8%), nonclinical personnel (40.4%), nurse practitioners/physician assistants (37.9%), and other clinical personnel (32.1%) all came in under the average, the investigators reported (Am J Infect Control. 2017;45[11]:1254-8). Six students with ILI also were included in the survey, two of whom worked or went to class.

“The statistics are alarming. At least one earlier study has shown that patients who are exposed to a health care worker who is sick are five times more likely to get a health care–associated infection,” Dr. Chiu said in a separate written statement.

For the study, ILI was defined as “fever (without a specified temperature cutoff) and sore throat or cough.” The “nonclinical personnel” category included managers, food service workers, and janitors, while the “other clinical personnel” category included technicians and technologists. The annual Internet panel survey was conducted from March 31, 2015, to April 15, 2015, and 414 of its 1,914 respondents self-reported having an ILI, of whom 183 said that they worked during their illness, Dr. Chiu and her associates said.

The investigators are all CDC employees. The respondents were recruited from Internet panels operated by Survey Sampling International through a contract with Abt Associates.


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