Study: Occupations that interact with the public at greatest risk for flu

ATLANTA — The highest prevalence of influenza happens among those professions that are exposed to the general public, such as real estate and rental and leasing (10.5% in this profession were at risk of flu, according to a recent study published Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) and accommodation and food services (10.2%). As many as 11% of workers in the food preparation and serving related sectors were at risk of flu and 8.3% of those employed in community and social services. 

Both seasonal influenza and H1N1 vaccination coverage were relatively low in all of these groups of workers.

"During an influenza pandemic, information about the industry and occupation of persons likely to be infected with influenza virus is important to guide key policy decisions regarding vaccine prioritization and exposure-control measures," the report noted. "[For example], healthcare personnel might have increased opportunity for exposure to influenza infection, and they have been prioritized for influenza vaccination because of their own risk and the risk that infected HCP pose to patients."  

So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set out to find other groups of workers that might be at increased risk for pandemic influenza infection. To feed the analysis, influenza-like illness and vaccination coverage data from the 2009 National H1N1 Flu Survey, which was conducted during October 2009 through June 2010, were reviewed. 

In a representative sample of 28,710 employed adults, 5.5% reported ILI symptoms in the month before the interview and 23.7% received the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine. 

Adults not in the labor force (i.e., homemakers, students or retired persons) had ILI prevalence and H1N1 vaccination coverage similar to those found in all employed adults combined. In contrast, ILI prevalence was higher and H1N1 vaccination coverage was lower among those looking for work. "These results suggest that adults employed in certain industries and occupations might have increased risk for influenza infection, and that the majority of these workers did not receive seasonal or H1N1 influenza vaccine," the report noted. "Unemployed adults also might be considered a high-risk group for influenza."



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