The following is an abridged article featured in the December 2020 issue of Healthcare Hygiene Magazine (see page 32).

As a healthcare provider that is part of a Regional COVID-19 response team, I have sadly seen the direct and indirect impacts of the ongoing threat posed by COVID-19. Countless lives have been directly or indirectly impacted including those of many healthcare providers at the front lines and healthcare executives charged with leading their organizations during challenging pandemic times. This ongoing pandemic is not expected to cease anytime soon, and the upcoming fall and winter respiratory infections season could potentially produce a new dilemma with concurrently circulating infectious pathogens such as Influenza, RSV, Rhinovirus, and SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Due to this concurrent circulation of respiratory viruses during the Fall and Winter, it is all the more important for healthcare facilities to not succumb to infection prevention fatigue and maintain an appropriate level of vigilance to the core practices of infection prevention and control.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified several core recommendations that can dramatically reduce the potential risk for the transmission of respiratory viruses. Below are several key steps that healthcare providers and infection prevention professionals should take to reduce the transmission of infectious respiratory illnesses:

Each of the steps referenced above plays a pivotal role in reducing the potential transmission of infectious respiratory viruses, keeping patients and healthcare providers safe, and also ensuring the continuity of clinical care operations. Every stakeholder in the healthcare delivery system must play an active role in recognizing and preventing the spread of these common respiratory pathogens. Through interprofessional collaboration, the use of efficacious infection prevention products such as disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and PPE, we can help effectively curb the transmission of respiratory illnesses.

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Dr. Hudson Garrett Jr. is a paid consultant for Clorox Healthcare.

Many infection preventionists regularly utilize clinical guidelines to guide their daily practice, but have you ever wondered how these national guidelines are developed? Many of the policies and practices that are used in infection prevention and control are developed by multidisciplinary groups whom create evidence-based guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion is primarily responsible for authoring evidence-based guidelines and guidance documents specifically to assist healthcare facilities and providers in reducing Healthcare-Care Associated Infections (HAIs). To aid the CDC in developing evidence-based guidance to the healthcare community, CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintain the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), which is a group of federally appointed healthcare experts who are charged with providing the CDC staff with strategic guidance on a wide variety of infection prevention and control challenges across the healthcare continuum of care. In addition to the voting members of the committee, there are also representatives from 21 clinical organizations which do not hold voting power. A senior member of CDC’s staff, the Designated Federal Official, serves as the official committee Secretary and official government representative to the group. This committee provides input not only to the CDC, but also to HHS. HICPAC is an extremely influential body that has tremendous impacts on the infection prevention and control community through the release of guidelines, guidance documents, and position statements that are viewed as the gold standard for both clinical practice as well as liability. These documents and recommendations are used widely in the infection prevention field and serve as the basis for many policies and procedures used in both inpatient and outpatient healthcare facilities.

As an infection preventionist, it’s critical to closely monitor the ongoing work that is being performed by HICPAC. Most HICPAC documents are sent out for official public comment prior to being finalized by the committee, and all healthcare professionals are encouraged to submit written comments along with supporting evidence. Engaging in this guideline creation and review process is a core responsibility of every infection prevention professional.

HICPAC typically meets 3–4 times per year formally, but members of the committee regularly interact through working group meetings. The in-person meetings are hosted at the CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and the meetings are open to the public. All infection preventionists should attempt to participate in HICPAC meetings remotely by registering for the webcast of the event. Space is limited for the webcast, so it is imperative to register early to secure your reservation for each meeting. All of the HICPAC presentations as well as minutes are published on the HICPAC website within ninety days of the meeting concluding.  The many documents produced by HICPAC are routinely used by other regulatory and accreditation agencies to define standards of care and for documentation of compliance of the current CDC recommendations.

To learn more about HICPAC or to register for upcoming meetings, click here. To view the current CDC HICPAC Guidelines and Guidance documents, click here.

Dr. Hudson Garrett Jr. is a paid consultant for Clorox Healthcare.

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