Background: During an influenza pandemic, clinicians need easily available clinical and laboratory criteria to distinguish influenza from similar respiratory illnesses. We compared A/H1N1/2009-polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive and matched PCR-negative hospitalized patients with suspected H1N1 influenza to identify factors that could assist physicians at patient admission.
Objectives: To identify factors significantly associated with A/H1N1/2009 infection.
Methods: A group of 145 patients with PCR-confirmed A/H1N1 2009 influenza admitted between 27 May 2009 and 3 December 2009 was matched with 145 PCR-negative patients by age, epidemiological week and pregnancy status. Epidemiological and clinical parameters and radiological findings on initial chest X-ray were compared between the two groups.
Results: Asthma (PCR+ 26%, PCR- 12%, P = 0.006) and military service (PCR+ 13%, PCR- 4%, P = 0.15) were associated with PCR-positive status in non-pregnant patients. At presentation, fever, cough, myalgia and fulfilling the pandemic influenza case definition were significantly more frequent in non-pregnant PCR+ patients (62/90/43/59% in PCR+ versus 38/69/30/35% in PCR-). In pregnant patients, fever and fulfilling the case definition were significantly associated with PCR-positive status. Mean leukocyte and absolute lymphocyte counts were significantly lower in both pregnant and non-pregnant PCR-positive patients. Significantly more PCR-negative non-pregnant patients (43% vs. 22% PCR+, P = 0.004) had abnormal chest X-ray (CXR) findings on presentation. In PCR-positive patients, patchy consolidation and interstitial infiltrates were the most common abnormalities.
Conclusions: Under the conditions generated by the A/H1N1/2009 pandemic, radiological findings did not distinguish reliably between influenza and other febrile respiratory illnesses. Asthma, military service, the pandemic case definition (particularly fever, cough and myalgia) and lymphopenia were associated with confirmed H1N1 infection.