Background: Healthcare personnel (HCP) working in outpatient settings routinely interact with patients with acute respiratory illnesses . Absenteeism following symptom development and lack of staff trained to obtain samples limit efforts to identify pathogens among infected HCP .
Methods: The Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial assessed respiratory infection incidence among HCP between 2011 and 2015 . Research assistants (RAs) obtained anterior nasal and oropharyngeal swabs from HCP in the workplace following development of respiratory illness symptoms and randomly while asymptomatic . Participants received take-home kits to self-collect swabs when absent from work . Samples mailed to a central laboratory were tested for respiratory viruses by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction .
Results: Among 2,862 participants , 3,467 swabs were obtained from symptomatic participants . Among symptomatic HCP, respiratory virus was detected in 904 of 3,467 (26.1 %) samples . Self-collected samples by symptomatic HCP at home had higher rates of viral detection (40.3 %) compared to 24% obtained by trained RAs in the workplace (P <0.001).
Conclusions: In this randomized clinical trial, take-home kits were an easily implemented, effective method to self-collect samples by HCP . Other studies have previously shown relative equivalence of self-collected samples to those obtained by trained healthcare workers . Take-home kit self-collection could diminish workforce exposures and decrease the demand for personnel protective equipment worn to protect workers who collect respiratory samples.