Objective: To study the dependence of infection risk and outbreak size on the type of index case (i.e., patient or staff).
Methods: Nosocomial outbreaks were reviewed and categorized into those started by patients and those started by staff. Infection risks and outbreak sizes were evaluated taking into account the index case category.
Results: Of the 30 nosocomial outbreaks of norovirus with person-to-person transmission, 20 (67%) involved patients as the index cases. Patient-indexed outbreaks affected significantly more patients than did staff-indexed outbreaks (difference in means, 16.25; 95% confidence interval [CI95], 5.1 to 27.0). For the numbers of affected staff, no dependence on the index case category was detectable (difference in means, -1.05; CI95, -9.0 to 6.9). For patients exposed during patient-indexed outbreaks, the risk of acquiring a norovirus infection was approximately 4.8 times as high as the corresponding risk for patients exposed during staff-indexed outbreaks (odds ratio [OR], 4.79; CI95, 1.82 to 8.28). The infection risk for exposed staff during patient-indexed outbreaks was approximately 1.5 times as high as the corresponding risk during staff-indexed outbreaks (OR, 1.51; CI95, 0.92 to 2.49).
Conclusions: Patient-indexed norovirus outbreaks generally affect more patients than do staff-indexed outbreaks. Staff appear to be similarly affected by both outbreak index category groups. This study demonstrates the importance of obtaining complete outbreak data, including the index case classification as staff or patient, during norovirus outbreak investigations. Such information may be useful for further targeting prevention measures