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Respiratory viruses and their impact in healthcare

Rao, Suchitraa; Nyquist, Ann-Christinea,b

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: August 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 4 - p 342–347
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000079

Purpose of review As viral respiratory infections are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality, and are associated with numerous challenges for infection control, we provide an overview of the most recent publications on healthcare-associated respiratory infections.

Recent findings Populations most susceptible to respiratory viruses include neonates, immunocompromised and elderly populations. Newer polymerase chain reaction-based assays are more sensitive and are able to detect multiple respiratory viruses. The significance of virus detection among asymptomatic individuals, however, remains unclear. There is more evidence of airborne transmission of influenza, but currently N95 masks are recommended only for aerosol generating procedures. Transocular transmission of influenza has been demonstrated in the experimental setting, but further research is needed of transocular transmission of other respiratory viruses. Mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers against influenza has been shown to reduce influenza rates and patient mortality.

Summary Infection control measures can be supplemented with use of polymerase chain reaction testing to determine causes, but the cornerstone of prevention relies on enforcing appropriate isolation measures for patients: hand hygiene; appropriate use of personal protective equipment by healthcare workers; illness screening of visitors; and influenza vaccination of healthcare workers, patients and families.

aDepartment of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), University of Colorado School of Medicine

bDepartment of Community and Behavioral Health, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado, USA

Correspondence to Ann-Christine Nyquist, MD, MSPH, 13123 East 16th Avenue B-276, Aurora, CO 80045, USA. Tel: +1 720 777 6072; fax: +1 720 777 7295; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.