Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19: Airborne or Droplet Precautions

This is a widely contested topic that I feel we still do not know the full answer on, but I am feeling better about.

As of right now, though, it seems hospital administrators have a leg to stand on when they recommend face masks for the majority of cases and N95's/respirators for NIV, intubations, bronchs, nebs, etc. I don't know if this is an official recommendation by any agency, but patients who have COVID-19 or are being ruled out for this should wear a mask in the hospital and outside the hospital. 

The flip flopping of policies occurs as we learn more data. It seems shady to me that they flipped their policies as shortages occurred, but it seems as if it's defensible at this time.

WHO: The February 27, 2020 guidance paper states:

"Healthcare workers involved in the direct care of patients should use the following PPE: gowns, gloves, medical mask and eye protection (goggles or face shield)."

"Specifically, for aerosol-generating procedures (e.g., tracheal intubation, non-invasive ventilation, tracheostomy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, manual ventilation before intubation, bronchoscopy) healthcare workers should use respirators, eye protection, gloves and gowns; aprons should also be used if gowns are not fluid resistant."

CDC: updated recommendations on March 10, 2020:

"Based on local and regional situational analysis of PPE supplies, facemasks are an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand.
During this time, available respirators should be prioritized for procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols, which would pose the highest exposure risk to HCP."

Essentially, they are acknowledging that we are being put at risk due to the lack of masks.

The most recent stir and adding to the controversy was a recent publication NEJM published on 3/17/20 which states:

"SARS-CoV-2 remained viable in aerosols throughout the duration of our experiment (3 hours)"

"The half-lives of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 were similar in aerosols, with median estimates of approximately 1.1 to 1.2 hours"

"Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days (depending on the inoculum shed)"

The key point is that the authors went out of their way to both nebulize the virus AND fed it into a Goldberg drum to further disperse it (I don't know what that is and google wasn't too helpful).

It is admittedly outside my scope of knowledge how to interpret the titers in the air, but it seems as if it's there and transmissible to us, the boots on the ground. I cannot make a concrete declaration based on my level of knowledge. I'd welcome your interpretation. I am curious to see how the ever-intelligent people in the CDC and WHO react to this data and possibly adapt their recommendations. 

We should also reach out to the local news agencies to assist us in asking the N95 hoarders to donate their extras to the local hospitals. We need to protect each other. 

-EJ

Link to the WHO Interim Guidance Paper

Link to the CDC Information

Link to the NEJM Abstract


Link to the NEJM PDF



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