WVU, NIOSH team up for flu study

Study of air particles to be conducted at WVU Urgent Care

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A flu study has some staff members at West Virginia University Urgent Care wearing backpack-like samplers to collect air particles for testing. 

During February, patients at WVU Urgent Care on certain days have seen some of the staff wearing the odd looking accessory – a “personal bioaerosol cyclone” sampler that draws in air through a portable vacuum pump, which is carried in a backpack.

The WVU Department of Emergency Medicine and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) teamed up to conduct the flu study. Flu season hit the Morgantown area at the end of January.

Two healthcare providers wear a sampler each shift after first being given a rapid flu test, done by nasal swab, to make sure they don’t already have the flu. Patients complaining of flu symptoms are asked if they are willing to participate in the study. Those who agree are given a rapid flu test. The samplers exposed to patients who test positive for flu are then checked to see if their filers captured flu virus particles.

Melissa Root, RN., wears the backpack at WVU Urgent Care.

In addition to the samplers the staff wears, several environmental samplers are also posted in the exam rooms, hallways and waiting area at Urgent Care.

The goal of the study is to determine whether the flu virus – known to be transmitted though contact – is also an airborne virus, Steve Davis, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, said. In the long term, this could help determine how to protect healthcare workers and others from contracting the virus in emergency departments and urgent care clinics through the restructuring of airflow in those buildings, if necessary.

“Emergency medicine-related articles reported that last flu season caused a national epidemic of personnel shortages in emergency departments and urgent care clinics,” Davis said.

If this study eventually leads to airflow restructuring plans, more healthcare providers may stay healthier throughout flu season.

Team members working on this study include Melanie Fisher, M.D., and Rashida Khakoo, M.D., in the WVU School of Medicine Infectious Diseases section; faculty in the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Bill Lindsley, Ph.D., with NIOSH.  A similar study was conducted last year in the WVU Hospitals Emergency Department.

For information on WVU Urgent Care see http://www.health.wvu.edu/services/wvu-urgent-care/index.aspx.

For information on the Department of Emergency Medicine see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/em.


For more information:
Angela Jones, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
asj: 01-30-09

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