Background: Disseminated varicella zoster virus (dVZV) infection is a feared complication of varicella zoster virus (VZV) reactivation in immunocompromised patients. The CDC recommends contact and airborne precautions for localized VZV in immunocompromised patients until dissemination has been ruled out. Pre-emptive isolation can be problematic for medical centers without access to negative-pressure rooms. When we identify a case of dVZV at our facility, we perform an investigation to identify occupational exposures. Methods: We conducted a retrospective, descriptive review of occupational exposure investigations related to dVZV from January 2016 to December 2018. We collected baseline characteristics of the dVZV patient, and we evaluated whether the exposure occurred due to a delay in diagnosis or a progression from “localized” to disseminated VZV disease. Results: We identified 21 immunosuppressed patients with dVZV whose infection resulted in an occupational exposure during the specified study period. Average age was 58.6 years, with 10 males and 12 females. The immunocompromised patients included 11 with hematologic malignancy, 5 with solid-organ malignancy, 3 with rheumatologic disease on immunosuppressive therapy, and 2 with a solid-organ transplant. Most of the exposures (72.7%) occurred in an inpatient setting. The exposures resulted from either delayed recognition of dVZV or delayed initiation of appropriate precautions for all of the immunosuppressed patients. Two additional exposures occurred as a result of a change from “localized” to “disseminated” VZV. These patients whose diagnosis changed from localized to dVZV were considered previously immunocompetent, and dissemination took place 2 days after seeking healthcare evaluation. Conclusions: Most occupational exposures to varicella zoster are the result of delayed initiation of appropriate isolation precautions due to delayed diagnosis of dVZV infection or failure to recognize the need for instituting precautions in disseminated disease. Instituting preemptive airborne precautions for immunocompromised patients with localized varicella zoster would be unlikely to reduce occupational exposures.
Disclosures: Consulting fee- Merck Priya Sampathkumar