Rapid identification of respiratory viruses: Impact on isolation practices and transmission among immunocompromised pediatric patients

Susan E. Beekmann, Howard D. Engler, Amy S. Collins, Jeanne Canosa, David K. Henderson, Alison Freifeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether empiric isolation of patients with acute respiratory virus infection symptoms could be discontinued when preliminary shell vial cultures were negative, and the impact of this approach on hospital resources. DESIGN: In 1993, we retrospectively reviewed respiratory virus test results from 1992 to 1993 and extended data collection prospectively through the 1993 to 1994 season. The rapid test and 48-hour shell vial results were compared to a standard of rapid test plus 5-day shell vial culture results to determine the sensitivity and specificity of these "preliminary" results. SETTING: A 400-bed tertiary referral research hospital. PATIENTS: Patients from any inpatient unit or clinic with acute respiratory virus infection symptoms who had a specimen submitted for respiratory virus culture. Patients were placed on empiric respiratory isolation pending culture results. RESULTS: The overall sensitivity of the combined rapid and 48-hour culture results in adults and children was 97%. All 15 pediatric patients with respiratory syncytial virus infection who had specimens submitted on first suspicion of respiratory virus infection were positive by rapid test Culture results were positive within 48 hours for 100% of patients with influenza A (15 patients), influenza B (6), and parainfluenza (18) viruses. Of 59 pediatric inpatients who were isolated empirically awaiting 5-day culture results, 31 (52%) ultimately were determined to be culture negative. CONCLUSIONS: Empiric isolation of symptomatic children can be discontinued at 48 hours when both the rapid test and the early culture results are negative. Our institution would have saved 93 days of unnecessary isolation over 2 years had such a policy been in place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-586
Number of pages6
JournalInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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