IC Today Hot Topics: COVID-19 Readiness, Meningococcal Outbreak, and Norovirus

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In this Hot Topics in IPC, Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, FAPIC, discusses whether masks need to return for COVID-19, Virginia’s outbreak, and interesting articles to read.

In this Hot Topics in IPC, Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, FAPIC, discusses whether masks need to return for COVID-19, Virginia’s outbreak, and interesting articles to read.

In this Hot Topics in IPC, Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, FAPIC, discusses whether masks need to return for COVID-19, Virginia’s outbreak, and interesting articles to read.

COVID-19 Readiness

Are we ready for COVID this fall? This question has increasingly been coming up, and the truth is, I can’t in confidence say “yes”. Katherine Wu, PhD, and a staff writer for The Atlantic, recently drew attention to this regarding masking mandates and hospital efforts, thus highlighting the challenges hospital infection preventionists (IPs) and epidemiologists face when it comes to mask mandates in the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic. “But across hospitals and policies, infection-prevention experts shared one sentiment: They felt almost certain that the masks would need to return, likely by the end of the calendar year. The big question was exactly when,” Wu wrote. This will be an increasingly common discussion as we move closer to the winter months and hospitals and IPs work to integrate a nonemergent COVID-19 pandemic into respiratory virus season response and restrictions.

Realistically, we’re likely to see increases in cases–whether that’s a true surge, or not–as people go back to pre-COVID-19 habits. What data do we use? What thresholds should determine action, and what happens if COVID numbers are high but not influenza or RSV? More to come…but food for thought as we navigate this novel situation for so many of us.

Also, good news: BA.2.86, a new COVID variant, is likely less immune-evasive than previously feared.

Virginia is Fighting a Meningococcal Outbreak

Twenty-seven people have been affected by a statewide meningococcal disease outbreak in Virginia, including 5 who have died due to the infection. Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y is the culprit and driving cases much higher than what the state normally sees. “So far, health officials haven't identified a common risk factor, though genetic sequencing of the bacteria suggests the infections are highly related. Most patients are Black or African American adults ages 30 to 60. Only one had received the MenACWY vaccine,” according to an article in CIDRAP.

“The VDH urged parents and healthcare providers to ensure that children receive all recommended vaccines, including MenACWY, which is recommended for adolescents before entering 7th grade, with a booster dose before 12th grade. The vaccine is also recommended for people who are at increased risk from the disease.”

Interesting Things to Read:

  • CDC MMWR on Norovirus Outbreak via Oysters–Not particularly surprising, but nonetheless interesting to read. “On December 7, 2022, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Public Health Region 6/5 South (PHR 6/5S) and DSHS Consumer Protection Division were notified by Galveston County Health District of 10 consumer complaints of illness after consumption of raw (9 complaints) and smoked (1) oysters at local restaurants during November 27 [to] December 4. Signs and symptoms began within 8 hours after consumption and included diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. Initially, no consumers sought medical care. Oyster tags from 3 associated restaurant inspections determined that oysters were from Oyster Harvest Area TX 1 (TX 1) in Galveston Bay, Texas.”
  • Long-term COVID and Health Problems—A large study of veterans is sharing insight into the impact of COVID-19 infections on long-term health, noting that they “found a dramatically increased risk of dozens of conditions including heart failure and fatigue, sometimes years postinfection. Overall, the team estimates, COVID-19’s public health impact is more than 50% greater than that of cancer or heart disease.”

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