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Proactive Infection Control: Unseen Virus Threats Mitigated by In-House Specialists and Real-Time Systems

As we continue to confront a world where unforeseen viruses pose enormous public health threats, it is reassuring to know that healthcare facilities such as hospitals in West Virginia are not standing idle. These institutions are deploying a myriad of systems and teams which ensure not only that their staff are kept abreast of current developments, but also collaborate closely with health departments to prep for imminent virus outbreaks. 

Heading these critical efforts is Michael Stevens who occupies the roles of System Healthcare Epidemiologist and Associate Chief Quality Officer for Infection Prevention within the West Virginia University Health System. Stevens works tirelessly alongside a team of specialists tasked with the early identification of potential health threats, long before they morph into significant issues. Leaning on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, international trends, and state-specific guidance, these professionals are able to effectively predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases. Part of their strategy includes partnering with local and state departments of Health and Human Resources. 

In this interconnected world of ours, being able to tap into global resources is of utter importance. With access to the Society For Health Care Epidemiology of America, professionals like Stevens can gain real-time information from a network that spans across national and international borders. In an interesting revelation, Stevens disclosed that notable occurrences often originate from New York City. Due to established connections there, they can gain firsthand information about current happenings – a situation that grants them the advantage of learning from real scenarios and discovering effective risk mitigation tactics weeks, if not a month ahead of time. 

WVU Medicine United Hospital Center, located in Bridgeport, boasts of four infection preventionists at the helm of managing emerging infectious diseases preparedness. These specialists, according to Mark Povroznik, UHC’s Vice President of Quality and Chief Quality Officer, are skilled in the application of risk mitigation strategies such as proper patient isolation and the correct use of personal protective equipment. Povroznik also highlighted other measures that ensure the prevention of virus transmission, such as mandatory reporting and prompt contact tracing when the need arises.

New and emerging infections are tackled through close collaborations with the health department and state and regional epidemiologists. Their single electronic medical record system enables the prompt dissemination of information, updating staff about emerging viruses in real-time. Furthermore, real-time education about new viruses and protocols are conveyed to staff through interactive modes such as emails and informational videos, Gerald Stevens assured. Reminders, drills, annual policy reviews, and more contribute to keeping hospital staff primed and ready to manage novel emerging threats. These infections are typically spurred by previously undetected or unknown infectious agents. 

The rising rate of new diseases or their re-emergence can be attributed to a reservoir of factors such as the natural evolutionary process of a pathogen, population growth, international travel, or a receding vaccination rate within a given population. The mission remains to provide unparalleled patient care while monitoring, preparing, and mitigating risks associated with unforeseen viruses.


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