Recent research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases scrutinizes the effectiveness of infection prevention (IP) protocols, specifically those implemented during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, in safeguarding healthcare workers and patients against the virus. While infection prevention measures have served as fundamental tools against infectious diseases in healthcare settings for decades, their potency in the face of SARS-CoV-2 transmission – galvanized by the pandemic and a deficiency of personal protective equipment – has been questioned due to a paucity of clinical data supporting their effectiveness. The research addressed the need for specialized studies to assess the efficiency of certain infection control approaches like PPE and efficient air exchange and filtration systems; the current ambiguity has sparked diverse strategies and continued skepticism regarding their effectiveness.
The cross-sectional, retrospective study pivoted on the effectiveness of the electronic record (ECR) algorithm and IP protocols across three waves of COVID-19, which also embraced the emergence of Omicron BA.1 and B.1.1.526 variants in late 2021. The research, conducted over the span of November 2020 to January 2022, involved participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 via PCR at the University of California San Diego Health (UCSDH). Analysis of viral genomics and an assessment of electronic health records (EHRs) rooted in social network structure facilitated a temporospatial overlap of infections, which established contacts amongst infected healthcare workers and patients.
The researchers applied whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to SARS-CoV-2-positive samples to parachute deeper into potential health system transmissions of the virus. In this scientific pursuit, regular testing of symptomatic, unvaccinated healthcare workers and vaccinated individuals during periods of high community prevalence was integral, as was daily monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms by healthcare workers.
The case tracing success of the ECR algorithm was also put to the test. In tandem with the strong need for scalable, multi-pronged infection control procedures, the study’s findings illuminated that IP strategies effectively disrupt SARS-CoV-2 transmission in healthcare settings. Another poignant revelation is that transmission events primarily occur between healthcare workers or in shared patient rooms, particularly in older hospitals. These findings provide succor to healthcare professionals at the frontline and help steer infection prevention measures towards a more nuanced, scientifically informed pathway.