Background: The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic and concern about pandemic influenza prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop guidelines to prevent the transmission of all respiratory infections in health care settings during first contact with a potentially infected person. The extent to which health care workers and institutions use these CDC recommended practices is uncertain.
Methods: The study examined health care worker adherence to CDC recommended respiratory infection control practices in primary care clinics and emergency departments of 5 medical centers in King County, Washington, using a self-administered questionnaire. All clinical, allied, and administrative health care workers in study settings were invited to participate: 653 (53%) responded, and 630 were included.
Results: The survey revealed important shortcomings in overall personal and institutional use of CDC recommended practices, including deficiencies in posted alerts, patient masking and separation, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, staff training, and written procedures. Use of recommended measures was generally higher among nursing staff than medical practitioners.
Conclusion: This study found significant gaps in adherence to CDC recommendations for the control of respiratory infections in ambulatory care clinical settings. Practical strategies are needed to identify and reduce barriers to implementation of recommended practices for control of respiratory infections.