Nationwide infection control strategy lowered seasonal respiratory infection rate: occupational health care perspective during the COVID-19 epidemic in Finland

Miika Arvonen, Paavo Raittinen, Oskar Niemenoja*, Pauliina Ilmonen, Sari Riihijärvi, Simo Särkkä, Lauri Viitasaari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Background

Respiratory infection is the 4th most common reason for absence from work in Finland. There is limited knowledge of how social distancing affects the spread of respiratory infections during respiratory epidemics. We assessed the effect of nationwide infection control strategies against coronavirus disease in 2020 on various respiratory infections (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems code J06) in occupational outpatient clinics.

Methods

We used occupational healthcare data of respiratory infection J06 diagnoses from 2017 to 2020 obtained from the largest health service provider in Finland. The data was divided into three 252 day-long pieces and was weekday-matched and smoothed by 7-day-moving average. The difference in the J06 diagnosis rate between the follow-up years was measured using Pearson correlation. Possible confounding by sex, age, and region was investigated in a stratified analysis. Confounding by respiratory syncytial virus was analysed using nationwide data of confirmed cases obtained from the national registry.

Results

In the second quarter of 2020, the trend in the daily number of J06 diagnoses was significantly different from the follow-up years 2019 and 2018. The number of J06 diagnoses peaked between March and April 2020 with roughly 2-fold higher count compared to normal. The timing of these peaks matched with the government issued infection control strategies and lockdowns. Based on stratified analysis, the increase in the number of J06 diagnoses was not confounded by region, age, or sex. Moreover, the rapid increase in the number of J06 diagnoses was not governed by the respiratory syncytial virus.

Conclusion

Nationwide infection control strategies were effective to slow down the spread of common respiratory infectious diseases in the occupational population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-846
Number of pages8
JournalInfectious Diseases
Volume53
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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