During a community epidemic of influenza B, surveillance throat cultures for influenza were collected from febrile adult patients and hospital employees on three medical wards to determine the frequency and source of influenza among hospitalized patients. Twenty-five cases of influenza B (18.5% of febrile patients) were identified; no clusters of influenza-like illness occured. The attack rate on two wards was 4.6%. Peak hospital influenza incidence followed that in the community by 1-2 weeks. Twelve of the cases were community-acquired and 13 were nosocomial. 75% of community-acquired cases had three or more common influenza B symptoms, compared with only 39% of nosocomial cases. A viral etiology of fever was suspected clinically in one-half of the cases, but influenza was specifically suspected in only one case. Two ill culture-positive nurses were identified on the job but no asymptomatic carriers were found among ward personnel. We conclude that influenza B cases were present among hospitalized patients in the absence of recognizable clusters of disease and that patients with community-acquired illness as well as nursing personnel may have introduced influenza into the hospital. Influenza B may be difficult to diagnose clinically in hospitalized patients, but viral throat cultures performed in all suspected cases should identify many infected patients.
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