Influenza among afebrile and vaccinated healthcare workers

Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Jun 1;60(11):1591-5. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ163. Epub 2015 Mar 2.


Background: To prevent transmission of influenza from healthcare workers (HCWs) to patients, many hospitals exclude febrile HCWs from working, but allow afebrile HCWs with respiratory symptoms to have contact with patients. During the 2013-2014 influenza season at our hospital, an influenza-positive HCW with respiratory symptoms but no fever was linked to a case of possible healthcare-associated influenza in a patient. Therefore, we implemented a temporary policy of mandatory influenza testing for HCWs with respiratory symptoms.

Methods: From 3 January through 28 February 2014, we tested HCWs with respiratory symptoms for influenza and other respiratory pathogens by polymerase chain reaction of flocked nasopharyngeal swabs. HCWs also reported symptoms and influenza vaccination status, and underwent temperature measurement. We calculated the proportion of influenza-positive HCWs with fever and prior influenza vaccination.

Results: Of 449 HCWs, 243 (54%) had a positive test for any respiratory pathogen; 34 (7.6%) HCWs tested positive for influenza. An additional 7 HCWs were diagnosed with influenza by outside physicians. Twenty-one (51.2%) employees with influenza had fever. Among influenza-infected HCWs, 20 had previously received influenza vaccination, 18 had declined the vaccine, and 3 had unknown vaccination status. There was no significant difference in febrile disease among influenza-infected employees who had received the influenza vaccine and those who had not received the vaccine (45% vs 61%; P = .32).

Conclusions: Nearly half of HCWs with influenza were afebrile prior to their diagnosis. HCWs with respiratory symptoms but no fever may pose a risk of influenza transmission to patients and coworkers.

Keywords: healthcare workers; influenza; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / pathology*
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Viruses / classification
  • Viruses / isolation & purification


  • Influenza Vaccines