Background: Nosocomial infection of health-care workers (HCWs) during outbreaks of respiratory infections (e.g. Influenza A H1N1 (2009)) is a significant concern for public health policy makers. World Health Organization (WHO)-defined 'aerosol generating procedures' (AGPs) are thought to increase the risk of aerosol transmission to HCWs, but there are presently insufficient data to quantify risk accurately or establish a hierarchy of risk-prone procedures.
Methodology/principal findings: This study measured the amount of H1N1 (2009) RNA in aerosols in the vicinity of H1N1 positive patients undergoing AGPs to help quantify the potential risk of transmission to HCWs. There were 99 sampling occasions (windows) producing a total of 198 May stages for analysis in the size ranges 0.86-7.3 µm. Considering stages 2 (4-7.3 µm) and 3 (0.86-4 µm) as comprising one sample, viral RNA was detected in 14 (14.1%) air samples from 10 (25.6%) patients. Twenty three air samples were collected while potential AGPs were being performed of which 6 (26.1%) contained viral RNA; in contrast, 76 May samples were collected when no WHO 2009 defined AGP was being performed of which 8 (10.5%) contained viral RNA (unadjusted OR = 2.84 (95% CI 1.11-7.24) adjusted OR = 4.31 (0.83-22.5)).
Conclusions/significance: With our small sample size we found that AGPs do not significantly increase the probability of sampling an H1N1 (2009) positive aerosol (OR (95% CI) = 4.31 (0.83-22.5). Although the probability of detecting positive H1N1 (2009) positive aerosols when performing various AGPs on intensive care patients above the baseline rate (i.e. in the absence of AGPs) did not reach significance, there was a trend towards hierarchy of AGPs, placing bronchoscopy and respiratory and airway suctioning above baseline (background) values. Further, larger studies are required but these preliminary findings may be of benefit to infection control teams.