Background: We measured frequency and epidemiologic, clinical, and hematochemical variables associated with respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in foreign-born and national patients hospitalized with fever with a history of international travel, and compared the final diagnosis of RTI with the presence of a respiratory syndrome (RS) at presentation.
Methods: A prospective, multicenter, observational study was conducted at tertiary care hospitals in Northern Italy from September 1998 to December 2000.
Results: A final diagnosis of RTI was obtained in 40 cases (7.8%), 27 (67.5%) with lower RTI and 13 (32.5%) with upper RTI. The most common RTIs were pneumonia (35%) and pulmonary tuberculosis (15%). A white blood cell count ≤ 10,000 and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate ≤ 20 mm/h were independently associated with a final diagnosis of RTI; onset of symptoms at ≤ 16 days and ≤ 75% neutrophils were independently associated with lower RTI. An RS was identified in 51 (9.9%) of 515 travelers. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of a diagnosis of RS for a final diagnosis of RTI were 67.5%, 94.9%, 52.9%, and 97.2%, respectively.
Conclusions: Pneumonia and pulmonary tuberculosis were frequent among foreign-born and national travelers with fever admitted to a tertiary care hospital. Half of the pneumonia cases did not present with an RS at first clinical examination.