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Screening for Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus, Spain | CDC EID

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Volume 17, Number 6–June 2011
Screening for Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus among Hospital Staff, Spain
Julián Olalla, Miguel Marcos, Fernando Fernández, Jaouad Oulkadi, Natalia Montiel, Alfonso del Arco, Víctor Fuentes, Javier de la Torre, José Luis Prada, and Javier García-Alegría
Author affiliation: Hospital Costa del Sol, Marbella, Spain

Suggested citation for this article

To the Editor: After the emergence of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus, measures for its control were taken quickly (e.g., isolation of affected patients and use of gowns, gloves, and N95 respirators) when a clinical suspicion of pandemic influenza was established (1). One population group frequently exposed to this virus is health care staff. These circumstances prompted us to implement a screening program for the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus among personnel working at our hospital in Marbella, Spain.

Costa del Sol Hospital is a 250-bed, second-level center located on the Mediterranean coast. A proposal was made to staff working in the emergency and internal medicine areas that nasal and pharyngeal samples to identify the virus by real-time PCR should be taken weekly over 12 consecutive weeks, from the third week of September 2009 to the third week of December. In addition to providing samples, each worker would be asked to complete a health-status questionnaire regarding his or her vaccination record and the presence of signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms to be reported in the questionnaires included fever, runny nose, painful swallowing, coughing, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, muscle pains, and general indisposition; 1 question also asked whether, during the previous week, a confirmed diagnosis of influenza with a positive PCR for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus had been made in the respondent's household.

At the outset, 60 members of the hospital staff volunteered to participate. Those who missed >4 sample tests, or >2 consecutive ones, were considered to have abandoned the study. Of the 36 staff members who completed the study, 27 were women (75%). The participants' average age was 37 years (CI 95%: 34.8–39.4). Sixteen were doctors, 16 were nurses, 2 were nursing auxiliary staff, and 2 were hospital orderlies. During the monitoring period, 5 (13%) subjects exhibited coughing, 7 (20%) had runny noses, 3 (8%) experienced painful swallowing, 6 (16%) had headaches, and 1 (2%) felt generally unwell. Nearly 75% stated they washed their hands with antiseptic lotion >20×/d. Three workers were vaccinated against seasonal and pandemic influenza, while only 1 was vaccinated against pandemic (H1N1) 2009 alone. None took oseltamivir. Five positive samples were identified (13.8% of the study population) being obtained from four doctors and one nurse, all women. The 4 doctors had signs and symptoms for 24–48 hours consisting of fever, general indisposition, and coughing; none of the 4 required hospitalization. The nurse was a woman 26 years of age with no influenza symptoms and with a positive PCR result on week 5. None of these 5 workers had received any influenza vaccination.

Screening for Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus, Spain | CDC EID

Suggested Citation for this Article
Olalla J, Marcos M, Fernández F, Oulkadi J, Montiel N, del Arco A, et al. Screening for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus among hospital staff, Spain [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jun [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1706.100577

Comments to the Authors
Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Julián Olalla, Unidad de Medicina Interna. Hospital Costa del Sol, Ctra. Nal. 340, km 187, Marbella 29603, Spain
; email:

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