Hot Topics in Infection Prevention: Thank You, IPs; Handling ‘Flurona’; CDC Quarantine Guidelines

Infection preventionists have been rocks throughout this pandemic and they now have to gear themselves again as they enter this frustratingly complex, nuanced, and challenging next phase.

Thank You, Infection Preventionists

Fellow infection preventionists, (IPs) first I’d to take a moment to welcome us all to another year and thank you for everything in the past couple of years. As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to take a moment and acknowledge the strain we’ve all been under. Felt by all, but uniquely by our quiet community of IPs who too often go unacknowledged when it comes to health care and public health response during this pandemic. Thank you for all you do and especially as we enter this frustratingly complex, nuanced, and challenging next phase of the pandemic.

Too Much Being Made of Flurona
This is one of those times that I think so many working in infectious disease screamed into the void. In our third year of the pandemic, poor information sharing and

sensationalism is increasingly frustrating and dangerous. “Flurona” is not a new strain, scify-inspired chimera virus, nor something that came from the frozen permafrost. This term was used to describe a co-infection with influenza and SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the term took off and inspired a lot of fear. While we’re used to seeing coinfections in a clinical setting, the general public may not, so it’s worth discussing this on unit rounds and ensuring people know that this can and does occur … and is also a great reminder to get vaccinated for both viruses.

CDC Quarantine Guidance Includes Vaccine Status
It’s only been a few weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed their guidance on isolation and quarantine. While most of us have likely spent more time reviewing the new guidance than we’d like – there are a few things I think it’s helpful to draw attention to. First, that masking must continue to occur if someone is permitted to end isolation early (after day 5). Not everyone realizes this is still a critical piece and as such, should be emphasized. Moreover, for the new quarantine guidance, it not only differentiates between being vaccinated and up-to-date on vaccines OR recently having COVID-19 or not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinates. This differentiation is important as it includes the new approach to boosters, which is seeing that people should be up-to-date and have them. The CDC directly addresses this by stating, “CDC recommends that people remain up to date with their vaccines, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses at regular time points. Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary shot and a booster shot.” The topic of vaccines, how they’re used, and global equity has increasingly grown in conversation as we face such a significant surge of cases despite having the vaccines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that broader access to vaccines and boosters is needed for countries throughout the world in order to help stop the incubation and emergence of new COVID-19 variants. Vaccines that prevent infection and transmission need to be added to those vaccines that prevent serious illness and death, according to the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC).

The group also said that ideally vaccines should reduce the need for booster shots by providing broad and durable protection. Monovalent vaccines, multivalent vaccines, and a universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccine could protect against all current and future variants, according to the WHO.