Study: 4 in 10 healthcare professionals work with flu-like symptoms

About 40 percent of healthcare professionals go to work with influenza-like symptoms, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

For the study, researchers conducted a national online survey of 1,914 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists, during the 2014-15 flu season. Survey participants self-reported flu-like symptoms and identified factors that urged them to come in to work. Respondent worked in four types of healthcare settings: hospitals, ambulatory care or physician offices, long-term care facilities, or other clinical settings.

Here are four study findings.

  1. Of the nearly 2,000 healthcare professionals surveyed, 414 reported flu-like symptoms. Of these individuals, 41.4 percent worked for a median of three days while experiencing symptoms.

  2. Respondents from hospitals reported the highest frequency of working with flu-like symptoms (49.3 percent), followed by those at long-term care facilities (28.5 percent).

  3. Clinicians were the healthcare professionals most likely to work with flu-like symptoms, with 44.3 percent reporting the behavior. Of all clinicians, pharmacists (67.2 percent) and physicians (63.2 percent) most often worked while sick.

  4. The most common reasons employees cited for not taking a sick day included feeling like they could still perform their job duties, not feeling "bad enough" to stay home, not feeling contagious, feeling obligated to be present for coworkers, and not being able to find a coworker to cover for them.

"The statistics are alarming. At least one earlier study has shown that patients who are exposed to a healthcare worker who is sick are five times more likely to get a healthcare-associated infection," said lead researcher Sophia Chiu, MD, of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "We recommend all healthcare facilities take steps to support and encourage their staff to not work while they are sick."

More articles on infection control:

WHO: Tuberculosis most lethal infectious disease for 2016
Death toll increases to 20 in San Diego County hep A outbreak
Multistate bacterial outbreak linked to pet store puppies up to 67 cases

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