News Scan for Mar 28, 2022

News brief

Contact tracing may have averted 1.4 million US COVID cases in 2 months

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modeling study used data from 59 US case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) programs to estimate that the programs prevented 1.11 to 1.36 million COVID-19 cases, and 27,000 to 34,000 hospitalizations over 60 days in winter 2020-21, well before the Delta and Omicron variant surges. 

The researchers collected data from Nov 25, 2020, to Jan 23, 2021, for analysis from July to September 2021. The 22 states and 1 territory studied covered 42.5% of the US population, spanned all four US Census regions, and reported data that reflected all 59 federally funded CICT programs.

Under a high-impact scenario in which 80% of all interviewed COVID-19 survivors and monitored contacts, as well as 30% of notified contacts, complied 100% with quarantine recommendations, CICT programs prevented 1.11 million infections and 27,231 hospitalizations.

In a low-impact scenario in which all COVID-19 survivors and monitored contacts followed quarantine guidelines, those estimates rose to 1.36 million infections and 33,527 hospitalizations.

Across all scenarios and jurisdictions, CICT prevented an estimated median of 21.2% (range, 1.3% to 65.8%) of infections not averted by vaccination and nonpharmaceutical interventions. CICT jurisdictions in the Midwest averted the most cases (1,444 to 1,600 cases per 100,000 people in low- and high-impact scenarios, respectively), while those in the West averted the fewest (488 to 568 cases per 100 000 in the low- and high-impact scenarios).

In February 2022, the study authors had previously assessed data from five US states and nine local health districts to estimate that CICT programs lowered SARS-CoV-2 spread by 0.4% to 32.0%. But, they noted, some experts said the value of such programs is limited owing to difficulty in scaling up services during COVID-19 case surges and community member hesitancy to participate in CICT, precluding meaningful engagement between health departments and patients and their contacts.

However, the findings of the current study, the authors said, suggest that CICT programs helped contain virus spread during the study period. "Differences in outcomes across jurisdictions indicate an opportunity to further improve CICT effectiveness," they wrote. "These estimates demonstrate the potential benefits from sustaining and improving these programs."
Mar 25 JAMA Netw Open study


Multidisciplinary stewardship tied to less antibiotic use in a NICU

A team of researchers from Drexel University determined that a multidisciplinary antibiotic stewardship team, coupled with a consensus for antibiotic therapy duration, prescriber justification of antibiotic necessity, and use of antibiotic stop dates can effectively reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The study was published today in Antimicrobial Stewardship & Healthcare Epidemiology.

The goal of the study was to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use by 20% in St. Christopher's Hospital for Children's 39-bed level IV NICU.

To do so, the researchers conducted a retrospective chart review to determine common indications and treatment duration for antibiotics. A multidisciplinary stewardship team conducted several educational interventions, and providers in the NICU were subject to manual antibiotic stop dates and justification of antibiotic use .

The percentage of unnecessary antibiotic days, defined as days beyond the consensus guidelines, dropped from 42% to 12% during the year-long intervention. In total, 139 of 250 neonates (55%) were exposed to at least 1 antibiotic in the baseline period, compared with 123 of 264 (46%) in the postintervention period, the authors said.

"Developing evidence-based guidelines with infectious disease input was key to engage the neonatologists and create consensus," the authors concluded.
Mar 28 Antimicrob Steward Healthc Epidemiol study


CDC: Influenza activity increasing across US

Late last week, the CDC Fluview update showed that rates of flu activity in the United States are increasing in a second wave of activity, though numbers are still below baselines for the 2021-22 flu season.

Influenza A (H3N2) accounts for almost all flu case detections, and 7.7% of submitted clinical lab samples were positive for flu in the past week. States in the Midwest and Southwest saw the highest levels of influenza positivity.

A total of 2,733 people were hospitalized for flu last week, a number that has increased over the past 7 weeks.

The cumulative hospitalization rate in the FluSurv-NET system is higher than that for the entire 2020-21 season but lower than that seen at this time during the four seasons preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said.

In total, the CDC estimates there have been at least 3.1 million flu illnesses this season, 31,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths.
Mar 25 CDC Fluview


MERS sickens Qatari man after contact with camels

Qatar's Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) last week reported a Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) case in a man who had contact with camels.

The man is hospitalized. So far, no other illnesses have been identified among his contacts, who are under monitoring for 14 days.

The case marks Qatar's first infection with the MERS-CoV virus since 2020 and pushes the country's total to 24. The man's illness onset date isn't clear, but if it was in 2022, it would signify the first such case reported in the new year.

Since the virus was first reported in humans in 2012, 2,585 cases, along with 890 related deaths, have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a February update from its Eastern Mediterranean regional office (EMRO). Most cases have been reported from Saudi Arabia.
Mar 22 Qatari MOPH statement
Feb WHO EMRO MERS-CoV update

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