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Flu Shots Keep Health Workers On The Job

ital-based health care professionals were randomly assigned to receive either an influenza vaccine or a control injection (either meningococcal vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, or placebo over a three-year period). The mean age was 28.4 years; 77 percent were resident physicians, 57 percent were women, and 18 percent were nurses.

All vaccines and placebos were administered in October and November of 1992, 1993, and 1994. Each week during the flu season, a study nurse called all participants on the telephone, inquired about illnesses during the previous week, and recorded specific symptoms of respiratory illness and absences from work due to illness. Blood specimens were obtained to check for influenza infection.

The overall incidence of influenza infection was 1.7 percent among vaccine recipients, compared to 13.4 percent among controls. The rate of influenza type A infection per 100 study subjects was 1.1 in influenza vaccinees and 8.9 in controls, for an effectiveness of 88 percent. The rate of influenza type B infections was 0.6 in influenza vaccinees and 5.0 in controls, for an effectiveness of 89 percent. Individuals who remained unvaccinated had a 14 percent risk of developing influenza type A or B infection. Influenza infection was associated with workers having an additional 1.5 days of febrile respiratory illness and missing 0.5 more days of work.

Subjects who had received the influenza vaccine reported a total of 28.7 days of respiratory illness with fever per 100 subjects, compared with 40.6 days per 100 controls. Vaccinated subjects missed 9.9 days of work per 100 subjects versus 21.1 days per 100 controls. The health care professionals actually reported more total days of respiratory illness and fever than days absent from work, suggesting they sometimes report for duty even with fever and respiratory illness, a practice that risks spreading flu to debilitated or elderly hospital patients.

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Contact: Kathy Moore
kwojciec@jhsph.edu
410-955-7619
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
9-Mar-1999


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