Background: This study aims to quantify the excess of sickness absenteeism among healthcare workers (HCWs), to estimate the impact of a severe versus moderate influenza season and to determine whether the vaccination rates are associated with reduced sickness absence. Methods: We investigated the excess absenteeism that occurred in a large Italian hospital, 5300 HCWs, during the severe influenza season of 2017/2018 and compared it with three moderate flu seasons (2010/2013). Data on influenza vaccinations and absenteeism were obtained from the hospital's databases. The data were split into two periods: the epidemic, from 42 to 17 weeks, and non-epidemic, defined as 18 to 41 weeks, which was used as the baseline. We stratified the absenteeism among HCWs in multiple variables. Results: Our study showed an increased absenteeism among HCWs during the epidemic period of severe season in comparison with non-epidemic periods, the absolute increase correlated with a relative increase of 70% (from 4.05 to 6.68 days/person). Vaccinated HCWs had less excess of absenteeism in comparison with non-vaccinated HCWs (1.74 vs 2.71 days/person). The comparison with the moderate seasons showed a stronger impact on HCW sick absenteeism in the severe season (+0.747days/person, P = .03), especially among nurses and HCWs in contact with patients (+1.53 P < .01; +1.19 P < .01). Conclusions: In conclusion, a severe influenza epidemic has greater impacts on the absenteeism among HCWs than a moderate one. Although at a low rate, a positive effect of vaccination on absenteeism is present, it may support healthcare facilities to recommend vaccinations for their workers.
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