Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Patients Can Emit Small, Influenza-Containing Particles Into the Air During Routine Care

From the 31 January 2013 article at KevinMD.com

[The]majority of influenza virus in the air samples analyzed was found in small particles during non-aerosol-generating activities up to a 6-foot distance from the patient’s head..

Vaccination of health providers remains a fundamental and key part of protecting them from influenza

 

A new study suggests that patients with influenza can emit small virus-containing particles into the surrounding air during routine patient care, potentially exposing health care providers to influenza. Published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, the findings raise the possibility that current influenza infection control recommendations may not always be adequate to protect providers from influenza during routine patient care in hospitals…

The current belief is that influenza virus is spread primarily by large particles traveling up to a maximum of 3 to 6 feet from an infected person. Recommended precautions for health providers focus on preventing transmission by large droplets and following special instructions during aerosol-generating procedures. In this study, Dr. Bischoff and his team discovered that the majority of influenza virus in the air samples analyzed was found in small particles during non-aerosol-generating activities up to a 6-foot distance from the patient’s head, and that concentrations of virus decreased with distance. The study addressed only the presence of influenza-containing particles near patients during routine care, not the actual transmission of influenza infection to others.

Fitted respirators are currently required for health care providers during aerosol-generating procedures with patients. During routine, non-aerosol-generating patient care, the current precautions recommend that providers wear a non-fitted face mask. Based on their findings, Dr. Bischoff and investigators are concerned that providers may still be exposed to infectious dosages of influenza virus up to 6 feet from patients with small wide-spreading particles potentially exceeding the current suggested exposure zones.

These findings suggest that current infection control recommendations may need to be reevaluated, the study authors concluded. The detection of “super-emitters” raises concerns about how individuals with high viral load may impact the spread of influenza, they noted. “Our study offers new evidence of the natural emission of influenza and may provide a better understanding of how to best protect health care providers during routine care activities,” the study authors wrote. However, studies of influenza virus transmission will be necessary before the role of super-emitters can be firmly established, they noted…

Whatever protective equipment or infection control practices are used for preventing influenza transmission, vaccination of health providers remains a fundamental and key part of protecting them from influenza, noted Dr. William Schaffner, professor medicine and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., who was not involved with the study. “Influenza vaccination, although not perfect, is the best tool we have to protect health care workers — and their patients — from influenza illness.

 

 

February 1, 2013 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Workplace Health | , ,

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