An outbreak of respiratory illness due to Branhamella catarrhalis occurred in the intermediate care unit of a Veterans Administration hospital and involved patients and staff members. Four patients had pneumonia and four had bronchitis. Infected patients were placed in a cohort separated from noninfected patients and were treated. Pharyngeal culture was used to survey prevalence in staff and all other patients on the unit; three of 18 staff members and two of 19 asymptomatic patients were positive for B. catarrhalis. A case-control study showed that respiratory therapy, steroid use, and location within the unit were significant risk factors for B. catarrhalis infection or colonization. Strains from five patients and two staff members had identical bacterial restriction endonuclease digestion patterns with three different enzymes; these patterns were distinct from those of control strains. This study is the first to document an outbreak of B. catarrhalis infection confirmed with a typing system and thus establishes B. catarrhalis as a nosocomial pathogen.
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