Respiratory Infections Are More Common Than Healthcare Records Indicate: Results from an Anonymous Survey

Stephanie A. Richard, Patrick J. Danaher, Brian White, Katrin Mende, Rhonda E. Colombo, Timothy H. Burgess, Christian L. Coles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) are common in military populations and can impair mission-readiness, particularly in the current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic; therefore, it is important to identify potential risk factors for infection and better understand the burden of infection. Materials and Methods: A survey was administered to military medical trainees living in a congregated setting on JBSA Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from January 2017 to February 2019. The survey included questions about ILI experience and potential ILI risk factors. Results: 2,121 individuals completed the survey. Respondents had a median age of 21 years, 46% were female, 32.6% were Air Force, 33.6% were Army, and 33.8% were Navy/Marines. Among the 815 (38%) who reported an ILI during training, 40% sought health care. The primary reasons for seeking healthcare included illness severity, concern about transmission, and accessibility of healthcare. Over half (54%) of the trainees who reported an ILI said the ILI had an impact on their performance, including reduced study time, missed physical training, and missed class. Multivariate model results indicate that women and younger trainees (<30 years) were more likely to report having had an ILI (women: OR 1.58, (95% CI 1.30, 1.92); age <30 years: OR 1.58, (1.06, 2.36)). In a subset analysis, those who reported washing their hands 10+ times per day were less likely to report an ILI (OR 0.61 (0.42, 0.89)). Conclusions: ILIs are likely to be more common during training than healthcare records indicate and may result in decreased training effectiveness. Increasing access to handwashing facilities and education about the importance of handwashing to prevent the spread of disease will likely reduce the ILI burden in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1941-E1947
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


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