81 U.S. healthcare workers have H1N1 virus
At least 81 U.S. healthcare workers have contracted laboratory-confirmed cases of the novel H1N1 and about half caught the bug on the job, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today. The finding is worrisome because it suggests that and workers are not taking sufficient preventive measures to limit spread of the virus. If a large-scale outbreak of the virus recurs this fall, a similar rate could cause significant problems -- not only because it would limit the number of workers available to care for the , but also because the infected nurses, doctors and others could transmit the virus to debilitated patients before their own symptoms become apparent. Already-ill patients would be more likely to develop life-threatening side effects from the . The report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report studied only 48 cases that occurred from the beginning of April to May 13, and concluded that "probably half were related to the healthcare setting," said Dr. Michael Bell of the Center for Preparedness, Detection & Control of Infectious Diseases. An additional 33 cases have been observed since then, but not studied in depth. One of the key findings of the study, he said, is that potential with so-called swine flu "need to be identified at the front door" of the hospital so that personnel will know they need to take preventive measures, such as wearing masks, isolating the patients and paying particular attention to hand hygiene. It is also "absolutely essential that healthcare personnel be vaccinated annually, for their own protection and to protect patients in hospitals," he added. The agency is not recommending that all hospital personnel receive the antiviral drug Tamiflu, but that it be used prophylactically in personnel who have been exposed to the virus.