HealthDay News — Patients exposed to influenza-like illness in the medical office setting are more likely to return with a similar illness in the following two weeks, according to a study published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

Hannah T. Neprash, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, and colleagues analyzed rates of potential airborne disease transmission in medical office settings, focusing on influenza-like illness, to inform policy for reopening outpatient care settings.

The researchers found that among 105,462,600 visits, 10,737,587 (10.2 percent) occurred on the same date as an influenza-like illness visit at the same practice. Among the study sample, 2.7 patients per 1,000 returned within two weeks with influenza-like illness. Compared with patients who were not exposed, patients exposed to an influenza-like illness in the medical office setting were more likely to revisit with a similar illness within two weeks (adjusted absolute difference, 0.7 per 1,000 patients). This pattern was not observed with exposure to noncontagious control conditions (urinary tract infection and back pain).


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“These results highlight the paramount importance of infection control in all health care settings, including outpatient offices, and the potential importance of telemedicine as a tool for infection control for patients with symptoms of respiratory viruses in the future,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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