Presenteeism among health care workers with laboratory-confirmed influenza infection: A retrospective cohort study in Queensland, Australia

Highlights

  • Some 14.1% of health care workers (HCWs) were attending work while ill with influenza.
  • Approximately one-quarter of medical doctors were working while ill with influenza.
  • Full-time HCWs had significantly shorter sick leave duration than part-time HCWs.

Background: A high prevalence of working while ill (presenteeism) has been documented among health care workers (HCWs). However, previous evidence is primarily based on nonspecific causes of sickness and self-reported data. Our study examined presenteeism among HCWs with laboratory-confirmed influenza.

Methods: The data pertaining to laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and history of sick leave among HCWs in Queensland, Australia, were collected from 2009-2015. The incidence and duration of sick leave around the time of disease confirmation were analyzed. The associations of factors, such as job category and employment status, on presenteeism were assessed with regression analyses.

Results: The overall sick leave incidence was 85.9% in the laboratory-confirmed periods, which translates that 14.1% of HCWs were working while ill with influenza. Among medical doctors, approximately one-quarter of them were attending work in the period. A shorter duration of leave was also observed among medical doctors and full-time employees compared with other HCWs and part-time employees.

Conclusions: Presenteeism among HCWs with influenza put both HCWs and patients at risk by increasing potential for transmission. Our findings emphasize the importance of an integrated approach including both HCW sick leave management and vaccination for strategic prevention and control of nosocomial influenza infection.