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This SHEA white paper identifies knowledge gaps and challenges in healthcare epidemiology research related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a focus on core principles of healthcare epidemiology. These gaps, revealed during the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, are described in 10 sections: epidemiology, outbreak investigation, surveillance, isolation precaution practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), environmental contamination and disinfection, drug and supply shortages, antimicrobial stewardship, healthcare personnel (HCP) occupational safety, and return to work policies. Each section highlights three critical healthcare epidemiology research questions with detailed description provided in supplementary materials. This research agenda calls for translational studies from laboratory-based basic science research to well-designed, large-scale studies and health outcomes research. Research gaps and challenges related to nursing homes and social disparities are included. Collaborations across various disciplines, expertise and across diverse geographic locations will be critical.
To describe the infection control preparedness measures undertaken for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) due to SARS-CoV-2 (previously known as 2019 novel coronavirus) in the first 42 days after announcement of a cluster of pneumonia in China, on December 31, 2019 (day 1) in Hong Kong.
A bundled approach of active and enhanced laboratory surveillance, early airborne infection isolation, rapid molecular diagnostic testing, and contact tracing for healthcare workers (HCWs) with unprotected exposure in the hospitals was implemented. Epidemiological characteristics of confirmed cases, environmental samples, and air samples were collected and analyzed.
From day 1 to day 42, 42 of 1,275 patients (3.3%) fulfilling active (n = 29) and enhanced laboratory surveillance (n = 13) were confirmed to have the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The number of locally acquired case significantly increased from 1 of 13 confirmed cases (7.7%, day 22 to day 32) to 27 of 29 confirmed cases (93.1%, day 33 to day 42; P < .001). Among them, 28 patients (66.6%) came from 8 family clusters. Of 413 HCWs caring for these confirmed cases, 11 (2.7%) had unprotected exposure requiring quarantine for 14 days. None of these was infected, and nosocomial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was not observed. Environmental surveillance was performed in the room of a patient with viral load of 3.3 × 106 copies/mL (pooled nasopharyngeal and throat swabs) and 5.9 × 106 copies/mL (saliva), respectively. SARS-CoV-2 was identified in 1 of 13 environmental samples (7.7%) but not in 8 air samples collected at a distance of 10 cm from the patient’s chin with or without wearing a surgical mask.
Appropriate hospital infection control measures was able to prevent nosocomial transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) are increasingly reported in residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs). We assessed whether implementation of directly observed hand hygiene (DOHH) by hand hygiene ambassadors can reduce environmental contamination with MDROs.
From July to August 2017, a cluster-randomized controlled study was conducted at 10 RCHEs (5 intervention versus 5 nonintervention controls), where DOHH was performed at two-hourly intervals during daytime, before meals and medication rounds by a one trained nurse in each intervention RCHE. Environmental contamination by MRDOs, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter species (CRA), and extended-spectrum β-lactamse (ESBL)–producing Enterobacteriaceae, was evaluated using specimens collected from communal areas at baseline, then twice weekly. The volume of alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) consumed per resident per week was measured.
The overall environmental contamination of communal areas was culture-positive for MRSA in 33 of 100 specimens (33%), CRA in 26 of 100 specimens (26%), and ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae in 3 of 100 specimens (3%) in intervention and nonintervention RCHEs at baseline. Serial monitoring of environmental specimens revealed a significant reduction in MRSA (79 of 600 [13.2%] vs 197 of 600 [32.8%]; P<.001) and CRA (56 of 600 [9.3%] vs 94 of 600 [15.7%]; P=.001) contamination in the intervention arm compared with the nonintervention arm during the study period. The volume of ABHR consumed per resident per week was 3 times higher in the intervention arm compared with the baseline (59.3±12.9 mL vs 19.7±12.6 mL; P<.001) and was significantly higher than the nonintervention arm (59.3±12.9 mL vs 23.3±17.2 mL; P=.006).
The direct observation of hand hygiene of residents could reduce environmental contamination by MDROs in RCHEs.
To study the association between gastrointestinal colonization of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
We analyzed 31,526 patients with prospective collection of fecal specimens for CPE screening: upon admission (targeted screening) and during hospitalization (opportunistic screening, safety net screening, and extensive contact tracing), in our healthcare network with 3,200 beds from July 1, 2011, through December 31, 2015. Specimens were collected at least once weekly during hospitalization for CPE carriers and subjected to broth enrichment culture and multiplex polymerase chain reaction.
Of 66,672 fecal specimens collected, 345 specimens (0.5%) from 100 patients (0.3%) had CPE. The number and prevalence (per 100,000 patient-days) of CPE increased from 2 (0.3) in 2012 to 63 (8.0) in 2015 (P<.001). Male sex (odds ratio, 1.91 [95% CI, 1.15–3.18], P=.013), presence of wound or drain (3.12 [1.70–5.71], P<.001), and use of cephalosporins (3.06 [1.42–6.59], P=.004), carbapenems (2.21 [1.10–4.48], P=.027), and PPIs (2.84 [1.72–4.71], P<.001) in the preceding 6 months were significant risk factors by multivariable analysis. Of 79 patients with serial fecal specimens, spontaneous clearance of CPE was noted in 57 (72.2%), with a median (range) of 30 (3–411) days. Comparing patients without use of antibiotics and PPIs, consumption of both antibiotics and PPIs after CPE identification was associated with later clearance of CPE (hazard ratio, 0.35 [95% CI, 0.17–0.73], P=.005).
Concomitant use of antibiotics and PPIs prolonged duration of gastrointestinal colonization by CPE.
Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) with diverse multilocus sequence typing emerged among our nursing home residents (6.5%) with a high background rate of MRSA (32.2%). Rectal swabs yielded a higher rate of CRAB detection than axillary or nasal swabs. Bed-bound status, use of adult diapers, and nasogastric tube were risk factors for CRAB colonization.
To assess the effectiveness of infection control preparedness for human infection with influenza A H7N9 in Hong Kong.
A descriptive study of responses to the emergence of influenza A H7N9.
A university-affiliated teaching hospital.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) with unprotected exposure (not wearing N95 respirator during aerosol-generating procedure) to a patient with influenza A H7N9.
A bundle approach including active and enhanced surveillance, early airborne infection isolation, rapid molecular diagnostic testing, and extensive contact tracing for HCWs with unprotected exposure was implemented. Seventy HCWs with unprotected exposure to an index case were interviewed especially regarding their patient care activities.
From April 1, 2013, through May 31, 2014, a total of 126 (0.08%) of 163,456 admitted patients were tested for the H7 gene by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction per protocol. Two confirmed cases were identified. Seventy (53.8%) of 130 HCWs had unprotected exposure to an index case, whereas 41 (58.6%) and 58 (82.9%) of 70 HCWs wore surgical masks and practiced hand hygiene after patient care, respectively. Sixteen (22.9%) of 70 HCWs were involved in high-risk patient contacts. More HCWs with high-risk patient contacts received oseltamivir prophylaxis (P=0.088) and significantly more had paired sera collected for H7 antibody testing (P<0.001). Ten (14.3%) of 70 HCWs developed influenza-like illness during medical surveillance, but none had positive results by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Paired sera was available from 33 of 70 HCWs with unprotected exposure, and none showed seroconversion against H7N9.
Despite the delay in airborne precautions implementation, no patient-to-HCW transmission of influenza A H7N9 was demonstrated.
Nosocomial outbreaks of norovirus infection pose a great challenge to the infection control team.
Between November 1, 2009, and February 28, 2010, strategic infection control measures were implemented in a hospital network. In addition to timely staff education and promotion of directly observed hand hygiene, reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction for norovirus was performed as an added test by the microbiology laboratory for all fecal specimens irrespective of the request for testing. Laboratory-confirmed cases were followed up by the infection control team for timely intervention. The incidence of hospital-acquired norovirus infection per 1,000 potentially infectious patient-days was compared with the corresponding period in the preceding 12 months, and the incidence in the other 6 hospital networks in Hong Kong was chosen as the concurrent control. Phylogenetic analysis of norovirus isolates was performed.
Of the 988 patients who were tested, 242 (25%) were positive for norovirus; 114 (47%) of those 242 patients had norovirus detected by our added test. Compared with the corresponding period in the preceding 12 months, the incidence of hospital-acquired norovirus infection decreased from 131 to 16 cases per 1,000 potentially infectious patient-days (P < .001 ), although the number of hospital-acquired infections was low in both the study period (n = 8) and the historical control periods (n = 11). The incidence of hospital-acquired norovirus infection in our hospital network (0.03 cases per 1,000 patient-days) was significantly lower than that of the concurrent control (0.06 cases per 1,000 patient-days) (P = .015). Forty-three (93%) of 46 norovirus isolates sequenced belonged to the genogroup II.4 variant.
Strategic infection control measures with an added test maybe useful in controlling nosocomial transmission of norovirus.
Little is known about outcomes after self-harm in East Asia.
To investigate mortality after self-harm in a Taiwanese population.
Between 2000 and 2003, 1083 individuals who self-harmed were identified through a population self-harm register in Nantou County, Taiwan, and followed until 2007 for date and cause of death on a national mortality database.
In total, 145 individuals died, 48 through suicide. The risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in the first year were 4.7% and 2.1% respectively, representing 8- and 131-fold age- and gender-standardised increases. Male gender and older age were independent risk factors for both suicide and non-suicide mortality. Use of more lethal methods in the index episode was associated with higher mortality but this was accounted for by gender.
Results in this sample support the recommendation that people with a history of recent self-harm should be a major target for suicide prevention programmes.
Repeated self-harm is relatively common and is linked with an elevated risk of eventual suicide. There has been no study of this involving a large sample from the Far East.
To estimate the risk over the medium term of non-fatal repetition of self-harm and identify predictive factors in those carrying out self-harm.
A total of 970 individuals who had self-harmed were recruited from a community-based suicide behaviour register system in Nantou, Taiwan from July 2000 to February 2003. Information regarding demography and suicide methods was collected. Individuals were followed-up until December 2005 to examine the risk of repeated self-harm and independent predictive factors.
Ninety cohort members had repeated self-harm during the follow-up period (accounting for 131 repeated self-harm episodes in all). The cumulative risks were 5.7% for the first year, 7.8% for the second year and 9.5% for the fourth year. The risk was highest within the first year after the self-harm event. Independent risk factors included female gender and self-cutting as well as self-poisoning with drugs. Effect of younger age was mediated through the choice of methods.
Individuals with self-harm have a high risk of repetition, especially within the first year. Suicide prevention strategies need to focus on intervening with this population to reduce their repetition.
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