Intensive care units (ICUs) are potential high-risk areas for the transmission of respiratory viruses such as influenza. An influenza pandemic is expected to result in a dramatic surge of critically ill patients, and ICU healthcare workers (HCW) are likely to be at high risk of infection.
To characterize the knowledge, attitudes, and expected behaviors of ICU HCWs concerning the risk of and response to an influenza pandemic.
A survey was distributed to 292 HCWs (ie, internal medicine house staff, pulmonary and critical care fellows and faculty members, nurses, and respiratory care professionals) at 2 hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland.
Of the 292 HCWs, 256 (88%) completed the survey. Just over one-half of the respondents believed there is at least a 45% chance of an influenza pandemic within the next 5 years. However, only 41% reported knowing how to protect themselves during an outbreak. Despite this common belief that a pandemic is likely in the near future, 59% of those surveyed reported only minimal knowledge of the risks of and protective strategies for an influenza pandemic, and 20% reported being unlikely to report to work during a pandemic or being unsure about whether they would do so. The odds of reporting to work varied on the basis of race and responsibility for child care.
ICU HCWs reported having minimal knowledge concerning the risk of and response to an influenza pandemic, even though more that one-half of HCWs expect that a pandemic will occur in the near future. This finding in a high-risk setting is of concern, given that lack of knowledge among HCWs may result in increased nosocomial transmission to HCWs and patients. Interventions to improve knowledge of pandemics and understanding of risks among ICU HCWs are essential.
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