Being prepared for the next pandemic

One of the first things you learn in medical school (or at least the oldest thing I remember from that time) is that the next flu pandemic can happen any time, now! You can’t argue with it, and it holds for all pathogens with pandemic potential. Pandemics (or what could become one) are threatening (think of Ebola and SARS) and usually give rise to many questions, such as what is the optimal diagnostic approach, treatment and prevention strategy. Research plans emerge, but before the studies can start, the pandemic is over, and hardly anything has been learned. That, now, should end. Continue reading

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Water, water everywhere (or nowhere?)

Karakum-Desert-Turkmenistan.-Author-David-Staney.-Licensed-under-the-Creative-Commons-AttributionA new paper by Hopman and colleagues (Andreas is also another author but is being modest) has evaluated the effect of removing sinks from the ICU. The trigger for this intervention was an outbreak caused by an ESBL-Enterobacter that could be related to contaminated sinks. The study looked at what happens if you remove all water sources from the ICU, and all water-related activities were migrated to a tap water-free solution. Continue reading

Norovirus – The organisation’s IPC ‘Canary’

5136479476_0d76640581_bIt’s the most Chunderful time of the year (or maybe not). The Norovirus ‘season’ will still be on us and a few points are well worth reflecting on. A recent systematic review of Norovirus risk in high and middle-income countries asserts that there may be as many as 12.5 million infections annually these countries alone, with possibly as many as 2.2 million outpatient visits related to the illness. Personally I have always liked having a bit of norovirus around. Keeps the staff on their toes and gives a good indicator of how IPC is really being performed rather than another set of 99% compliant hand hygiene audits.

Continue reading

Something in the air?

Aerosols
Pic: Duncan C

A new paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that aerosols and the airborne/inhalation route could transmit Norovirus, demonstrating that Norovirus genomes could be detected in air samples inside and outside of rooms during outbreaks. The authors suggest that a healthcare worker could inhale up to 60 copies of virus during a 5-minute stay in a ‘symptomatic’ patient’s room. These particles, it is suggested, are available then to be swallowed.

So, given the fact that I still have some staff left in the hospital when Norovirus comes to call I’m thinking either this virus has a larger infectious dose than we think or the assumptions are not quite right. There was no linkage with the time lapse from the symptomatic ‘event’ apart from this was within 24 hr. of the sampling or with the type of event, or putting it bluntly, which end of the body the virus was ejected from the body from. Presumably the top end is a more effective disperser of viral particles than the lower end (depending on how sharply the sheets are pulled back..) and it would be interesting to see the effect of frequency of symptoms. Continue reading

Mycobacterium chimaera & Open-Chest Heart Surgery

20_det_heater_C_v1_Outbreak of Mycobacterium chimaera Infection After Open-Chest Heart Surgery

Reported by Andreas Widmer in Basel and now published by Hugo Sax and colleagues (CID April 15th, 2015), the amazing story of open-cheat heart surgery, Mycobacterium chimaera infections (years after the operation!), and contaminated heater-coolers in your operating room.

While the Swiss were first, we know by now that this problem is unfortunately not limited to the Alp region, but furthermore present e.g. in the Netherlands.   If your hospital has a program for open-chest heart surgery, now is the time to check your heater-coolers, to avoid further airborne transmission of M. chimaera from contaminated heater-cooler units.

Schermafbeelding 2015-05-06 om 11.50.47