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Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—January 28, 2018

Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out our top 5 articles of the week.

#5: Schools Close in Response to Most Severe Flu Season Since 2009

In an update on the widespread flu activity impacting much of the United States, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the country is experiencing its most severe flu season since the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.

Week 3 ending on January 20, 2018, was the third week in a row with 49 states reporting widespread flu activity. In addition, New York City, Puerto Rico, and 39 states reported high activity levels of influenza-like illness during week 3, an increase of 7 states from the total reported in the previous week’s FluView report. Furthermore, the proportion of outpatient visits for ILI rose from 6.3% the previous week to 6.6%.

Read the rest of this week’s Flu Update, here.

#4: CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald Resigns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, has resigned from her position amid reports that she purchased shares in a tobacco company while championing governmental efforts dedicated to anti-smoking.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” a statement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reads.

Dr. Fitzgerald informed newly-appointed Secretary, Alex Azar “of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal,” according to the statement.

Read more of this Breaking News story here.

#3: FDA Approves Vancomycin Hydrochloride for Treatment of CDAD & Staphylococcus aureus Enterocolitis

A vancomycin hydrochloride oral solution for the treatment of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) and enterocolitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus(including methicillin-resistant strains) has just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The solution, Firvanq, developed by CutisPharma, is projected to launch on April 2, 2018. When that happens, it will replace CutisPharma’s First-Vancomycin Unit-of-Use Compounding Kit, which has been available to provide pharmacists with a “convenient, accurate, and compliant way to compound vancomycin oral liquid therapy.”

Read more about the FDA approval, here.

#2: ACIP Releases Recommendations for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the use of herpes zoster (shingles) vaccines.

About 1 million individuals are infected with herpes zoster each year in the United States and the best protection against the virus remains vaccination. With the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix on October 20, 2017, there are now 2 vaccines against the virus available on the market.

Read more about the ACIP’s recommendations, here.

#1: Flu Wreaking Havoc on Hospitals, Infection Control Practices Struggling

As the United States continues to battle a rough influenza season, the precarious situation has illuminated gaps in how we prepare and respond to infectious disease threats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that for the week ending in January 13, 6.3% of individuals who saw their health care provider did so for influenza-like illness (ILI). A total of 7 additional pediatric deaths were reported last week as well, bringing the case count up to 37. Current ILI numbers are similar to those seen during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Hospitals are being hit hard by a rapid influx of individuals who are requiring isolation, treatment, and manpower during a time where health care institutions are already suffering from an intravenous (IV) bag shortage. I’ve seen some hospitals go on diversion because they are so inundated with patients that they are unable to accept any more. Hospitals are experiencing shortages of influenza testing kits, conference rooms and outside tents are being set up as triage/waiting areas, personal protective equipment (PPE) stores are being strained. Furthermore, infection prevention and control practices are being stressed against the influx of patients and staff calling in sick. All the while, clinicians are trying to maintain proper isolation precautions.

Many health care experts have pointed to these struggles as a sure sign that should an influenza pandemic occur at proportions seen during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, we will not be able to manage at a health care level.

To add insult to injury, a recent study on the transmissibility of aerosols and the role they play in spreading influenza has uncovered some disheartening results.

In infection prevention, influenza (seasonal) patients are put on droplet precautions, which means they are given a surgical mask to wear to mitigate the transmission of any influenza droplets that are coughed or sneezed out upwards of 3 feet into the air. Surgical masks are effective against larger droplets that are coughed/sneezed, but not smaller ones that are transmitted through aerosolization.

Read the rest of this week’s top article, here.