Lately, conversations about herd immunity and COVID-19 have been taking place around TV news desks and family dining room tables: Could herd immunity give us the protection we need from COVID-19? Some news articles seem to say that this is a viable option, while others warn vehemently against it. In today's post, we'll explore the role herd immunity can play in stopping the spread of disease, and specifically, whether it can help us during the current pandemic.
Today's post wraps up the usual suspects when it comes to pathogens contributing to hospital acquired infection. These pathogens, while less prevalent than those mentioned in earlier posts, still pose a danger to immunocompromised patients in healthcare settings.
Regulations help make sure that people and companies behave properly, especially when it comes to health and safety. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have regulations to help keep consumers safe while using chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and more. But during a pandemic, often the time required to implement regulations causes risks of its own - during these times, we often need a quick solution, even if it is not the best solution. Therefore, during times of great need, such as during a pandemic, there exist special authorizations to allow temporary permissions to safe, but not necessarily effective, products. Today we will talk about three of those emergency authorizations.
Watching and waiting, always lurking around the next corner, these three pathogens are both found everywhere and highly resistant, a 1-2 punch for vulnerable patients. They reside in the environment as well as on our bodies, some of them in mucuous membranes. These membranes are perfect homes for bacteria: Moist, warm, and often dark. So while they survive for long periods of time without resources, with access to an environment with little competition they will quickly reproduce and become dangerous, especially if they find a way into our bodies. Keep an eye over your shoulder for these ninja pathogens.
A major part of controlling an outbreak is contact tracing - tracing back all the contacts an infected person had while contagious and having those contacts self-isolate for two weeks. When an outbreak is enormous, however, contact tracing is almost impossible. In today's post, we'll look at what contact tracing looks like in the US, where it's working, where it's not working, and what role it may play in the ongoing pandemic.
Today's trio of pathogens are stealthy, living on our bodies without causing us harm but wreaking havoc when they find a way inside a bacteria-free, or sterile part of our body (lungs, bloodstream, internal organs, and others). Typically they are surrounded by other species of bacteria in our intestines or on our skin, using all their energy to battle it out for resources with the other species of bacteria that surround them. This keeps them in check. However, if they are able to enter the sterile parts of our body through an incision or medical device, they find themselves in a new territory with absolutely no competition. With uncontested resources, they quickly reproduce and create an infection which can cause great harm, and even death.
Staphylococcus might as well be the mob when it comes to hospital acquired infections. Strains from this bacterial crime family account for 38% of all HAIs and affect all the major sites for infections. Because it is a part of our natural human flora (our own personal biome), it has ready access to opportunities to enter the body, either through an incision or a medical device.
Data about the ongoing pandemic is introducing the general public to a very familiar topic in epidemiology: Epi curves. These displays of data help epidemiologists visualize trends in positive cases, transmission, and so much more. It's important for the general public to see and understand the data being presented now more than ever, since health experts are using these charts to convince communities to abide by social distancing, mask-wearing, and now, school closings. In today's post, we'll look at some of these graphs and what they can tell us about all outbreaks, including COVID-19, as well as hospital-associated infections.
It is estimated that there are 5×1030 bacteria on Earth. That's 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 5 nonillion. We have not even begun to identify them all, and new strains are evolving all the time. We not only coexist with bacteria on Earth, they outnumber us by such a mind-boggling degree that we cannot even conceive it. Consider this: There are currently just over 7 billion humans on earth, and one spoonful of rich soil contains approximately 10 trillion bacteria. And our bodies? Bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. (But don't worry, you're not a zombie. They make up only 3% of our body mass. But still.)
Without a doubt, those in charge of re-opening businesses, places of worship, schools, and other public areas are being inundated with sales presentations about products that promise to keep surfaces clean during the pandemic. While federal agencies (the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency) are trying to curb the spate of misleading claims, misinformation, and outright lies, some still make it out into the marketplace. It's particularly important that consumers understand the role of antimicrobial additives, a segment of the market that can lead to a lot of misunderstanding. In today's post, we hope to prepare you to ask the right questions and probe the statements you might hear as you investigate products for your facility.