The transmission of the influenza virus from patient to emergency physician: No flu for you

Am J Emerg Med. 2020 Mar;38(3):562-565. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.05.051. Epub 2019 May 29.


Background: Significant morbidity and mortality is attributed to infection with the influenza virus annually and care is often sought in Emergency Departments (ED). The exposure of Emergency Department healthcare personnel and subsequent illness is speculated to be high but has not been quantified.

Methods: All physicians and mid-level providers in a large tertiary care ED who cared for an Influenza-positive patient were identified and surveyed. Information was gathered regarding each provider's report of an Influenza-like illness during the study period as well as laboratory testing results, sick contacts and subsequent missed work. General descriptive information of Influenza-positive patients was extracted through a retrospective chart review.

Results: 1020 Influenza-positive patients were cared for by 106 physicians and advanced practice nurses. Patients testing positive for Influenza-A were more likely to be admitted (p = .003). The majority of patients (83%) were cared for by an attending only. Our provider survey response rate was 87%. 1 in 4 providers reported suffering from an Influenza-like illness during the study period and no providers subsequently missed work days. Only 4 (5%) of those providers sought medical care to receive testing. Overall, 2% of ED providers tested positive for Influenza.

Conclusions: Among Emergency Department providers, transmission of clinically significant Influenza illness was low.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Influenza, Human / transmission*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires