Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Ebola War

Things are just awful in Liberia, and getting worse elsewhere as well. The problem now clearly outpaces the response, resulting in shortages of everything from barrier protection to hospital beds. Worse, there is a breakdown in civil order and trust that makes it impossible to do the hard work of case identification, contact tracing and education--which is what ultimately brings epidemics under control. 

The latest, and somewhat controversial, call is for a large-scale military or quasi-military response to the outbreak. Although there are clearly downsides, experts from Peter Piot to MSF leaders to Mike Osterholm are calling for military involvement. 

The need for such involvement is based simply on the scale of this disaster—WHO, CDC, non-governmental groups like MSF, no group has anything close to the logistical capability of the military to quickly deploy personnel and supplies almost anywhere in the world. If, as MSF suggests, military assets are “not…used for quarantine, containment, or crowd control measures”, which have backfired (particularly in Liberia), such a response could help bring essential capacity where it is needed most. The chart below provides a comparison of the total budgets for the US military, CDC, WHO and MSF. I realize that the military is not designed for infectious diseases outbreak response, but we’ve invested in a massive military complex (to the exclusion of investment in many other areas, including infectious diseases prevention), so I’m not sure we have any choice: the United Nations to coordinate, UN member nations' military assets to move materials and people, and the CDC, WHO, MSF and others to provide expertise.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Top Papers in Infection Prevention

Last week, Andreas Voss gave a talk on the year's top papers in infection prevention at ICAAC. He graciously allowed us to post his slides to the blog. To see his presentation, click here. Thanks, Andreas!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ebola: Could it get worse?

Today's New York Times OpEd section has a provocative and scary piece by Mike Osterholm. It focuses on the possibility that mutations in the Ebola virus could allow the virus to spread via the airborne route. I must admit that I don't know enough virology to comment on the probability of that occurring, but it is sobering to think about the implications of this. He also offers some recommendations for improving the management of the current epidemic.

Image:  Jonathon Rosen, New York Times

Donning and Doffing

Many have spent the last month or so preparing for possible patients with Ebola. Last week I had the opportunity to review the tremendous amount of work that the UIHC infection preventionists have completed towards our preparation. During this process, I watched these videos prepared by the Biocontainment Unit at the Nebraska Medical Center that demonstrate the proper use of Biological Level C PPE. My thoughts when viewing these are that without significant practice, it would be very difficult to prevent contaminating or breaking protocol when removing this level of PPE and that donning and doffing take almost 14 minutes. That's a bit more time than hand hygiene - so no more complaints about that! And thanks to Nebraska for sharing these well-prepared videos.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Where did all the pediatric HAIs go?

In keeping with the pediatric theme this week, there is a nice study just published in Pediatrics outlining the general trends in Pediatric HAIs between 2007 and 2012. Stephen Patrick and colleagues from Vanderbilt and Boston Children's Hospital used CDC NHSN data from 173 NICUs and 64 PICUs to track CLABSI, VAP and CAUTI rates.

The good news is that CLABSIs declined from 4.9 to 1.5 per 1000 central-line days in the NICU and from 4.7 to 1.0 per 1000 CL-days in the PICU. There were also significant reductions seen in VAP in both NICUs and PICUs. CAUTIs were not adequately reported in NICUs; however, in PICUs the authors found that CAUTI rates did not change significantly over the 6-year study period. I've included the NICU and PICU figures below. Importantly,  CLABSI rates were twice as high and VAP rates were over three times as high in very low birth weight ( < 1500g) infants.

Apart from highlighting recent successes in reducing HAI, I think the main messages (as I've already stated elsewhere) are that HAI are still very common in VLBW infants and that rates remain above zero in all pediatric populations. Thus, despite cultural changes, implementation of insertion bundles and technological innovations, such as antimicrobial-coated catheters, we still need additional evidence-based methods to prevent HAI in children. While we might take this occasion to rest on our laurels and celebrate past successes, we should instead increase funding for development of HAI prevention interventions, particularly in VLBW populations.

And while policymakers might think we can mandate further HAI reductions through such things pay-for-performance, it is clear from these data that those tools have already done their job yet there's much more hard work to do. Notice the almost flat rates in both figures over the past 3-4 years. We need more than quality-improvement goals. Without scientifically proven methods to further reduce HAI, I suspect rates will remain stagnant. That would be unfortunate.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Enterovirus 68: Talking Points

Yesterday, I discussed the recent emergence of EV68 in the US and its association with respiratory illness in children. Naturally, there has been a lot of media interest and parental concern. In addition, CDC released a new MMWR earlier today that describes the two best characterized EV68 outbreaks in Kansas City and Chicago. Of note, the CDC report necessarily describes only the sickest patients with EV68, those admitted to the hospital and tested. Like most viral illnesses, we expect the vast majority of infected children to either not develop symptoms or develop less severe symptoms that might require a visit to a clinic but not require hospitalization. Personally, I have replied to dozens of emails, attended internal meetings and completed several interviews with the media, so I thought I'd share a few general discussion points that have come up more than once today.

For Parents:

1) What is EV68? Enterovirus 68 (EV68) is not a new virus, but over the past few years it has caused outbreaks of respiratory distress in the fall. These outbreaks are similar to what we see later in the year with influenza and RSV. What's different is that this is happening earlier in the fall and with a rarer virus.

2) Who does this virus infect? In the current outbreak, most patients are children under 16 with a prior history of asthma or wheezing. Symptoms include rapid onset of cough, wheezing and difficulty breathing. EV68 rarely causes fever. Most children with suspected EV68 infection respond quickly to supportive care that includes breathing treatments, such as inhalers prescribed by a health care provider.

3) What should I look out for? If your child or family member (or friend) develops rapid onset cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing, please contact their health care provider. While most patients do not require hospitalization, children can develop symptoms rapidly, so a quick call or visit to a health care clinic might be necessary.

4) Is there an antibiotic I can take or a vaccine? No, there are no currently available antiviral medications that treat EV68. There is also no vaccine. However, that does not mean that your child can't be treated. Children with severe respiratory distress can receive several forms of breathing treatments that reduce their symptoms and get them on the road to recovery.

For Hospital Epidemiologists and other Health Care Workers:

1) EV68 is only rarely associated with high fevers. Thus, presence of fever is not an effective question for screening visitors for illness. Thus, facilities currently experiencing an outbreak of EV68 or an uptick in viral respiratory illnesses, should consider restricting access to visitors under the age of 15 or 16 (the oldest confirmed cases in the CDC report). Of course, exceptions should be made in certain situations.

2) HCW who are ill or suspect they might have a viral respiratory illness should follow their hospital policies concerning work attendance. As we've mentioned before, presenteeism (coming to work sick) is a big problem, so avoid it if at all possible.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide specific healthcare advice to an individual patient or healthcare facility. Please contact a doctor or other healthcare provider if you have specific questions about your or your child's health. Also, I will not respond to specific comments asking questions about the care of individual patients. Finally, don't trust any healthcare advice you receive over the internet. Oh, and all of this information will be obsolete and expire by tomorrow.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

E is for...Enterovirus 68

Never a dull moment. Just as facilities have begun wrapping up their Ebola preparation plans, there's gathering evidence that several US states may be facing large clusters of acute respiratory illness associated with human enterovirus 68 (EV68).

Last week the Missouri Department of Health released an Alert describing increased cases in St. Louis and an outbreak of over 300 acute respiratory illnesses in a Kansas City pediatric hospital with 15% requiring ICU care. 19 of 22 specimens sent to the CDC from the Kansas City outbreak were positive for EV68. Many St. Louis cases were positive for enterovirus but specific typing is pending. Denver is seeing severe respiratory illness in very young children and children with asthma. Children's Hospital Colorado has treated 900 children and admitted 86 since August 18th, but so far the specific viral pathogen has not been confirmed. CDC reports similar cases have appeared in at least 10 states -- Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Georgia.

There are a few publications over the last 5 years describing EV68 associated outbreaks including an MMWR covering 2008-2010 clusters and individual reports from the EV68 emergence in the Netherlands, and an Indian Health Services (IHS) outbreak in children (both were already covered in MMWR). The Netherlands has seen the majority of cases in September to November (Figure above) with the highest prevalence in patients ages 50-59, while the IHS outbreak occurred in August-September in children with a median age of 4.8 years.

Clinical Findings: Signs and symptoms include cough, tachypnea, hypoxemia, and wheezing, particularly new-onset. In the Arizona IHS outbreak, at least half of the children had infiltrates on CXR and short hospital stays (median 1.5 days). The clinical presentations of the 18 IHS patients are listed in the table below.
Diagnosis: There are commercially available, FDA-approved, multi-pathogen detection systems including Luminex xTAG RVP, Idaho Technologies FilmArray Respiratory Panel. However, these non-specifically identify pathogens as "entero-rhinovirus" or "human rhinovirus/enterovirus." Most facilities can't currently perform enterovirus typing. Identification of EV68 requires partial sequencing of the structural protein genes, VP4-VP2 or VP1.

Treatment: There is no specific treatment for EV68. Care is usually supportive and only a minority of patients require brief hospitalization. Currently, there are no vaccines available.

Infection Prevention: The CDC currently (2007) recommends Standard Precautions for enteroviral infections but recommends "Contact Precautions for diapered or incontinent children for duration of illness and to control institutional outbreaks." However, most of the data that informed these recommendations were not derived from respiratory EV68 outbreaks. Recommendations from Hong Kong are very similar. 

I contacted a hospital epidemiologist in one of the states experiencing an outbreak, who has graciously shared their current protocol. Currently, they use symptoms to drive precautions so their respiratory patients are placed on droplet plus contact isolation for the duration of their hospitalization. In addition, they started their usual winter respiratory visitation restrictions last week so that children under 13 yo cannot visit and increased their focus on year-round routine screening of all visitors/family members for illness. Finally, they noted that this was the earliest they've ever started respiratory visitation restrictions.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Surviving Ebola

Here is an interesting interview with Dr. Kent Brantley, the Ebola survivor, and his medical providers at Emory University Hospital. Key messages in this piece regarding the illness are:

  • Diarrhea is very severe (cholera-like)
  • Severe electrolyte imbalances result from the massive fluid losses
  • Some patients are probably dying of arrhythmias due to the electrolyte disturbances
Photo: TruNews