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Health Care Workers With ARIs Often Work While Symptomatic

THURSDAY, June 20, 2019 -- Almost all health care workers (HCWs) with acute respiratory illness (ARI) report working at least one day while symptomatic, according to a study published online June 18 in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Lili Jiang, Ph.D., from the Sinai Health System in Toronto, and colleagues enrolled HCWs during the 2010-2011 to 2013-2014 influenza seasons and examined the incidence of and factors associated with working during an ARI.

The researchers found that the majority (94.6 percent) of ill individuals reported working at least one day while symptomatic, resulting in working an estimated 1.9 days while symptomatic per participant season and 0.5 days of absence during an ARI. Compared with other HCWs, the adjusted relative risk of working while symptomatic was higher for physicians and lower for nurses. The likelihood of working was higher if symptoms were less severe and on the illness onset date versus subsequent days. The reason most often cited for working while symptomatic was that symptoms were mild and the HCW felt well enough to work (67 percent). Participants without paid sick leave and younger participants were more likely to state that they could not afford to stay home.

"Managers and senior staff need to both model and insist on workers staying home when symptomatic as it protects both patients and coworkers from infection," a coauthor said in a statement.

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Posted: June 2019

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