Hot Topics in Infection Prevention: Rising COVID-19 Cases, Ebola Outbreak

Infection Control Today, Volume 26, Issue 10

Winter is coming, which means influenza and COVID-19 rates are rising, but IPs have more issues like monkeypox and Ebola to contend with also.

From rising COVID-19 numbers to moneybox and Ebola, this winter is looking worrisome. In infection prevention and control (IPC), like public health, we often try to avoid the “q word” (quiet) because the moment one of us says “Well, it’s been quiet lately.” That’s usually when the outbreak around 3 PM on a Friday starts. Since COVID-19, though, I think our definition of “quiet” has changed. IPC life never slows down, and even when it does, that’s just time for us to catch up on case investigations, rounding, projects, and all the things that have been piling up while putting out fires. To help reduce that stress, here are a few highlights of infectious diseases topics and issues compiled to make sure you’re informed without having to do the heavy lifting.

Rising COVID-19 Cases

I know – you’re shocked. In the very early signs of an uptick, cases are steeply rising in Europe, which has been predictive of what we’ve seen in the United States. For example, cases are up 107% in Germany currently, up 1% on a global scale, and the Netherlands has seen an increase of 135% in cases – all within the last 2 weeks. Europeans have seen an increase of 14% in cases compared to the previous week in those 65 and older. The United States is still trending down, but seeing 40,000 new cases a day with test positivity at around 8.4%. With influenza trends increasing, many are worried what this winter will look like. It’s safe to say that with lackluster uptake in the COVID-19 bivalent booster, concern for disease severity is realistic. The hope, though, is that we won’t see a highly transmissible new variant like last winter (ahem, Omicron) that changes the game and causes a massive surge. Masks, boosters, and all our favorite infection prevention practices will be that much more important this winter.

Ebola Outbreak in Uganda

Increasingly worrisome, the outbreak of Ebola virus disease (in this case, the Sudan strain), is only getting worse. Cases and deaths have been rising – now a fourth health care worker has died because of the disease. Cases are now at 63 and deaths up to 29. The World Health Organization has released $2 million to help address the outbreak and provide more people and resources to Uganda. Current practices are focused on vaccination and close contact management, trying to control the disease and prevent further spread. Moreover, focus on health care management of patients to avoid nosocomial transmission.

What does this mean for US-based IPC efforts? This is a great time to dust off the Ebola and viral hemorrhagic fever guidance, remind yourself of what those processes and workflows look like, do a quick personal protective equipment check, and chat with urgent care and emergency department staff. Currently cases are isolated to Uganda, but this is a nice chance to discuss travel history and that there’s an outbreak only growing in this area, so consider this when people mention travel to Uganda and do a bit more digging based off symptoms or recent exposures.