HONG KONG COVID 19 Hospital Acquired Infection Rate Zero
Dr K K Aggarwal
President CMAAO, HCFI and Past national President IMA
Medscape: Hong Kong's public hospital system appears to have successfully protected both patients and staff from SARS-CoV-2, according to a study published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
During the first 42 days of the outbreak, the 43 hospitals in the network tested 1275 suspected cases and treated 42 confirmed patients. Yet, there were no nosocomial infections or infections among healthcare personnel.
11 out of 413 healthcare workers who treat patients with confirmed infections had unprotected exposure and were in quarantine for 14 days, but none became ill. In comparison, the 2003 SARS outbreak saw almost 60% of nosocomial cases occurring in healthcare workers.
The success story may be due to a stepped-up proactive bundle of measures that included enhanced laboratory surveillance, early airborne infection isolation, and rapid-turnaround molecular diagnostics.
Other strategies included staff forums and one-on-one discussions about infection control, employee training in protective equipment use, hand-hygiene compliance enforcement, and contact tracing for workers with unprotected exposure.
In addition, surgical masks were provided for all healthcare workers, patients, and visitors to clinical areas, a practice previously associated with reduced in-hospital transmission during influenza outbreaks.
Hospitals also mandated use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs), such as endotracheal intubation, open suctioning, and high-flow oxygen use, as AGPs had been linked to nosocomial transmission to healthcare workers during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
The infection control measures, which were part of a preparedness plan developed after the SARS outbreak, were initiated on December 31, when the first reports of a cluster of infections came from Wuhan, China.
As the outbreak evolved, the Hong Kong hospitals quickly widened the epidemiologic criteria for screening, from initially including only those who had been to a wet market in Wuhan within 14 days of symptom onset, to eventually including anyone who had been to Hubei province, been in a medical facility in mainland China, or in contact with a known case.
All suspected cases were sent to an airborne-infection isolation room (AIIR) or a ward with at least a meter of space between patients.
Vigilance in hand hygiene practice, wearing of surgical mask in the hospital, and appropriate use of PPE in patient care, especially [when] performing AGPs, are the key infection control measures to prevent nosocomial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 even before the availability of effective antiviral agents and vaccine.
Apart from the widespread issuing of surgical masks to workers, patients, and visitors, the measures taken in Hong Kong are not different from standard infection-control practices.