Possible New COVID Variant Causes Outbreak in Highly Vaccinated Nursing Home

Article

SARS-CoV-2 is aerosolized. If a non-vaccinated person who is shedding the virus visits a vaccinated relative in a nursing home, he can easily spread the virus to all who reside in the facility.

As I have stated repeatedly, if we keep spreading around SARS-CoV-2, it may well mutate into a variant which evades the vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). According what recently went on in a Kentucky nursing home, the virus may well have done just that. According to WKYT: “The governor says a COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at a nursing home in eastern Kentucky. There are 41 cases reported, including five residents that have been hospitalized. Dr. Steven Stack says 30% of vaccinated individuals are symptomatic and 83% of the unvaccinated at the nursing home are showing symptoms.” According to Kentucky.com “85 percent of residents and 48 percent of staff opted to get a coronavirus vaccine.”

Initial reports are that this virus is not a known variant. I hope this outbreak is due to problems with the vaccine given nursing home residents and staff. If vaccine protocols for storage and reconstitution are not followed precisely, then the vaccines’ effectiveness will decrease. But baring that, this is very concerning news.

Kevin Kavanagh, MD

Kevin Kavanagh, MD

There are several take-home lessons. The first is that we should not be fully opening up our economy and relaxing public health measures. The recent updated guidance for nursing homes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CMS) should certainly be placed on hold. And as discussed in a recent article in Infection Control Today®, this guidance endangers the elderly. Herd immunity cannot be achieved in a nursing home. If one person is spreading the virus and one person is susceptible, viral transmission will occur. And this virus is aerosolized. Thus, if a non-vaccinated person who is shedding the virus visits a vaccinated relative, he can easily spread the virus to all who reside in the facility.

The initial reports appear to indicate the efficacy of the vaccine is diminished by this variant. Research has reported that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines prevent symptoms in 95% of individuals and prevents hospitalizations in all who have been vaccinated. From the initial report, it appears that there is likely a very high infection rate in those who did not receive the vaccine. In vaccinated individuals there also appears to be protection, but nowhere near 100%. Unvaccinated residents were twice as likely to develop symptoms. It is reported that one vaccinated resident is hospitalized (1 in 71) with COVID-19, compared to 4 unvaccinated residents that are hospitalized (4 in 13).

The guidance that vaccinated individuals, even with the variants, will avoid hospitalizations does not appear to be valid. And we need to slow down the spread of this virus so we can slow down the mutation rates and our vaccine development can catch up with these new variants.

Related Videos
Andrea Flinchum, 2024 president of the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc (CBIC) explains the AL-CIP Certification at APIC24
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology  (Image credit: APIC)
Lila Price, CRCST, CER, CHL, the interim manager for HealthTrust Workforce Solutions; and Dannie O. Smith III, BSc, CSPDT, CRCST, CHL, CIS, CER, founder of Surgicaltrey, LLC, and a central processing educator for Valley Health System
Jill Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, CRCSR, NREMT, CHL, and Katie Belski, BSHCA, CRCST, CHL, CIS
Baby visiting a pediatric facility  (Adobe Stock 448959249 by Rawpixel.com)
Antimicrobial Resistance (Adobe Stock unknown)
Anne Meneghetti, MD, speaking with Infection Control Today
Patient Safety: Infection Control Today's Trending Topic for March
Infection Control Today® (ICT®) talks with John Kimsey, vice president of processing optimization and customer success for Steris.
Related Content