Professor and Head
Hong Kong University
During the first wave of an influenza pandemic prior to the availability of an effective vaccine, healthcare workers (HCWs) may be at particular risk of infection with the novel influenza strain. We conducted a cross-sectional study of the prevalence of antibody to pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009 (pH1N1) among HCWs in Hong Kong in February-March 2010 following the first pandemic wave. Sera collected from HCWs were tested for antibody to pH1N1 influenza virus by viral neutralisation (VN). We assessed factors associated with higher antibody titres, and we compared antibody titres in HCWs with those in a separate community study. In total we enrolled 703 HCWs. Among 599 HCWs who did not report receipt of pH1N1 vaccine, 12% had antibody titre ≥1:40 by VN. There were no significant differences in the age-specific proportions of unvaccinated HCWs with antibody titre ≥1:40 compared with the general community following the first wave of pH1N1. Under good adherence to infection control guidelines, potential occupational exposures in the hospital setting did not appear to be associated with any substantial excess risk of pH1N1 infection in HCWs. Most HCWs had low antibody titres following the first pandemic wave.