Challenging cases in COVID-19: Through fire and water
In a case presented to panelists during an afternoon session, a Mexican-born woman, 42, presents to urgent care with fever, dyspnea, dry cough, and pleuritic pain, for over a week. Multiple family members have had recent respiratory illness as well. She is obese, on no medications, was not traveling. She’s a nonsmoker and lives in a multigenerational household in the Mission District of San Francisco. Her heart rate is 116, respiratory rate is 36, and her oxygen saturation on room air is 77%. She is admitted to a local hospital and quickly declines, is intubated and started on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). One day later she is transferred to a hospital for consideration of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Panelists were asked a variety of questions about how they would treat this patient. For example, would they continue HCQ? Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, an infectious disease expert from Newport Beach, Calif., answered that she would not continue the HCQ because of lack of evidence and potential harms. Asked whether she would start remdesivir, Dr. Kullar said she would steer her away from that if the patient developed renal failure. Co-moderator Peter Chin-Hong, MD, a medical educator with the University of California, San Francisco, noted that contact tracing will be important as the patient returns to her housing-dense community.
In-hospital infection prevention
The CDC acknowledgedthis month, but David Weber, MD, MPH, professor in infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, “this does not change anything we need to do in the hospital,” as long as protective pandemic protocols continue to be followed.
There is no evidence, he noted, that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted far enough that a hospitalized patient could infect people in other rooms or corridors or floors. Opening windows in COVID-19 patients’ rooms is “not an option,” he said, and could be harmful as fungal elements in outside air may introduce new pathogens. The degree to which improved ventilation systems reduce transmission has not been identified and studies are needed to look at that, he said.
Preventing COVID transmission in the community
Mary-Margaret Fill, MD, deputy state epidemiologist in Tennessee, highlighted COVID-19’s spread in prisons. As of mid-October, she said, there are more than 147,000 cases among the U.S. prison population and there have been 1,246 deaths. This translates to a case rate of about 9800 cases per 100,000 people, she said, “double the highest case rate for any state in the country and over three times greater than our national case rate of about 2,500 cases per 100,000 persons.”
Testing varies widely, she noted. For instance, some states test only new prisoners, and some test only when they are symptomatic. One of the strategies to fight this spread is having staff, who go in and out of the community, be assigned to work with only certain groups at a prison. Another is widespread testing of all prisoners. And when prisoners have to leave the prison for care or court dates, a third strategy would be quarantining them upon their return.