Health workers didn't take swine flu precautions

Jun 18, 2009 By MIKE STOBBE , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- The first study of U.S. health care workers with swine flu found that many didn't do enough to protect themselves against the virus.

Researchers focused on 13 nurses and other workers who were likely infected at work in the early days of the U.S. outbreak. They found that only half always wore gloves, and even fewer routinely wore other protection around patients who might have the virus.

In late April - just as U.S. cases were first mounting - the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health care workers should wear gloves, gowns, eye protection and respirator masks when dealing with patients suspected of having swine flu. The CDC also advised sick workers to stay home.

To date, about 80 health care workers have been confirmed with swine flu. The study examined the 26 cases of infected workers with detailed information as of mid-May

The study's numbers are too small to generalize about what's going on in clinics and hospitals. But they suggest that at least some health care workers aren't doing enough to identify and isolate patients with swine flu and take precautions when treating them, said Dr. Michael Bell, a CDC official focused on infection control in health care settings.

"I think we've been lucky that this first wave has not been of the lethality that some people feared," Bell said, at a news conference Thursday.

But CDC officials say many health care workers will need to improve how they deal with the flu, especially if - as some fear - the virus mutates into a deadlier form.

The study is being published this week in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The 80 cases of health care workers is out of the nearly 18,000 confirmed and probable U.S. cases reported as of last Friday. Those numbers suggest health care workers are underrepresented in the case counts, CDC officials said.

About 1,600 people have been hospitalized and at least 44 died, according to CDC numbers. Many of the victims were younger adults, children and people with other illnesses. About 40 percent of those hospitalized have been people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert.

Widespread cases in 17 states - particularly in the Northeast - suggest swine flu will continue through July and August and into the fall and winter, he said.

In some earlier flu pandemics, the new virus essentially elbowed out other flu strains. It's likely that will circulate along with seasonal flu bugs in the fall, Jernigan said.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Ebola virus has mutated less than scientists feared, study finds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

CDC, states: US swine flu cases jump to 68

Apr 28, 2009

(AP) -- The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States has jumped to 64, federal officials said Tuesday, and states reported at least four more.

Flu drug advised for pregnant women with swine flu

May 12, 2009

(AP) -- Pregnant women should take prescription flu medicines if they are diagnosed with the new swine flu, health officials said Tuesday. So far, the swine flu has not proven to be much more dangerous than seasonal influenza, ...

CDC: Now fewer US swine flu cases linked to Mexico

May 07, 2009

(AP) -- A U.S. health official says now only about 10 percent of the Americans who got swine flu had traveled to Mexico and likely picked up the infection there. Most got the bug at home.

At least 7 hospitalized in US with swine flu

Apr 28, 2009

(AP) -- At least seven people were in U.S. hospitals with swine flu Tuesday as the number of cases nationwide rose to 64 and a federal health official warned that deaths were likely.

Recommended for you

UK nurse cured of Ebola after receiving new treatment

1 hour ago

A British army reservist who contracted Ebola while working as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone has fully recovered after becoming the first patient in the world to receive an experimental new treatment.

COPD takes big toll on employment, mobility in US

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—The respiratory illness known as COPD takes a toll on mobility and employment, with a new report finding that nearly one-quarter of Americans with the condition are unable to work.

Genetic test for inherited kidney diseases developed

4 hours ago

Many kidney disorders are difficult to diagnose. To address this problem, scientists and clinicians have developed a diagnostic test that identifies genetic changes linked to inherited kidney disorders. This ...

Diagnosing infectious diseases at the point-of-care

4 hours ago

A major problem with current testing for infectious diseases in Africa is that it focuses on individual diseases and cannot reliably discriminate between them. Since most infectious diseases have the same ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.