Monitoring Major Illness in Health Care Workers and Hospital Staff

Clinical Infectious Diseases
Volume 53 Issue 3 August 1, 2011

Brief Reports
Wing-Hong Seto, Benjamin J. Cowling, Hung-Suet Lam, Patricia T. Y. Ching, Mei-Lam To, and Didier Pittet
Clinical and Nonclinical Health Care Workers Faced a Similar Risk of Acquiring 2009 Pandemic H1N1 Infection
Clin Infect Dis. (2011) 53(3): 280-283 doi:10.1093/cid/cir375

(See the editorial commentary by Drumright and Holmes, on pages 284–286.)

Reporting of confirmed pandemic influenza A virus (pH1N1) 2009 infection was mandatory among health care workers in Hong Kong. Among 1158 confirmed infections, there was no significant difference in incidence among clinical versus nonclinical staff (relative risk, 0.98; 95% confidence interval, 0.78–1.20). Reported community exposure to pH1N1 was common and was similar in both groups.

Lydia N. Drumright and Alison H. Holmes
Editorial Commentary: Monitoring Major Illness in Health Care Workers and Hospital Staff
Clin Infect Dis. (2011) 53(3): 284-286 doi:10.1093/cid/cir384

During the past 3 decades, our understanding of both the biology and epidemiology of infectious diseases has vastly improved because of methodological and technological developments. However, researchers have yet to take full advantage of the tools available to them, particularly in health care settings. Most studies of nosocomial influenza and other infections focus primarily on patients, but health care workers (HCWs) [ 1– 3] and hospitals [ 4] are likely to be central to disease transmission, prevention, and risk. Unfortunately, most studies of disease transmission within hospitals treat HCWs as “fixtures” rather than dynamic members of a disease transmission network, and there has been inadequate investment in the study of disease transmission among HCWs. This is a missed opportunity to develop a critical understanding of disease epidemiology, thereby increasing patient safety and supporting and protecting HCWs as one of society’s most important and valued resources.

The study in this month’s Clinical Infectious Diseases by Seto and colleagues highlights the importance of detailed surveillance and research of infectious diseases among HCWs in understanding the roles of HCWs and patients in nosocomial transmission. It demonstrates the value of an organizational ability to adopt and integrate innovative methods into hospital procedures, and also some missed opportunities to gain a more complete understand the observations.


An area in need of urgent attention is surveillance of infectious diseases among HCWs, which was magnified by the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic [ 5]. Although the dearth of surveillance in this population persists, recognition of the utility and value of collecting such data is beginning to emerge. Seto et al report on an impressive system of monitoring and surveillance of all hospital and clinic staff in 38 hospitals and 74 outpatient …