June 19, 2009 | | Comments 0
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CDC report notes some healthcare workers don’t embrace infection control with H1N1 cases

Hi folks, it’s Scott Wallask. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention published an early examination of healthcare worker infections from the H1N1 swine flu virus in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Even though the report is just a snapshot of two dozen or so infected healthcare workers, it’s clear there are at least some staff members who are not protecting themselves from infection when dealing with suspected or confirmed H1N1 patients. It’s a shame that a nurse, physician, or other hospital employee would put himself or herself at risk while on the job.

A couple of interesting notes I picked up from the report:

  • The CDC believes the risk of patient-to-healthcare worker transmission of H1N1 is highest in ambulatory outpatient settings
  • One physician who was infected wore an N95 respirator, but was never fit-tested for it, which would defeat the purpose of the N95
  • Though this has no bearing on H1N1 infections, out of 16 healthcare workers the CDC was able to glean vaccine information from, only eight received a flu shot since September, which is right in line with historical statistics on how many healthcare workers are inoculated each year against seasonal flu

As a quick overview, the CDC’s interim infection control measures for H1N1 in healthcare settings include the following recommendations:

  • Promote cough etiquette among patients and visitors
  • Screen patients for H1N1 in an area with negative air pressure, if possible
  • For procedures that are likely to generate aerosols (e.g., bronchoscopy), conduct them in an airborne infection isolation room
  • When entering a suspected or confirmed H1N1 patient’s room, observe standard precautions (e.g., perform hand hygiene, and use gloves, gowns, and goggles/face shields when you anticipate coming into contact with blood, other potentially infectious materials, and mucous membranes)
  • When entering a suspected or confirmed H1N1 patient’s room, observe contact precautions (e.g., wear gloves and gowns upon entering the room, place patients in single-bed rooms or cohorting infected patients together, and don’t share medical equipment used by an infected patient with other patients)
  • When entering a suspected or confirmed H1N1 patient’s room, wear a fit-tested N95

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Scott Wallask About the Author: Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for HCPro's Hospital Safety Center (www.hospitalsafetycenter.com) and the award-winning newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. He has written about healthcare for HCPro since 1998, with a focus on occupational and building safety, emergency management, fire protection, and infection control. Prior to joining HCPro, he worked as a reporter for several newspapers in eastern Massachusetts. He holds a BA in print journalism, magna cum laude, from Northeastern University in Boston. Contact Scott at swallask@hcpro.com.

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