COVID-19 pandemic necessitates infection control refresher
No, coronavirus isn't easily spread by surface contamination but like any infectious disease—viral or bacterial—it's not beyond the realm of possibility, making it vital that optometric practices brush up on their infection control protocols.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inadvertently made national headlines when it clarified guidance about SARS-CoV-2 transmission to state that the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic does not spread easily on surfaces. Specifically, the CDC reemphasized that person-to-person spread is the main source of transmission and stated the virus may be spread in other ways, i.e., touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, but this manner is by no means predominant.
In an attempt to reorganize its COVID-19 information online, the CDC had previously listed "spread from contaminated surfaces or objects" as its own subheading after "person-to-person spread"; however, the page now lists the new subsection, "The virus does not spread easily in other ways." The subtle change drove many news outlets to report the CDC had changed its stance on surface transmission, but that wasn't the case, the agency says.
"After media reports appeared that suggested a change in CDC's view on transmissibility, it became clear that these edits were confusing," a CDC statement from May 22 reads.
"The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person to person. Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this isn't thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
There haven't been any documented cases of SARS-CoV-2 surface transmission, but current evidence suggests the virus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials, the CDC says. Therefore, a cleaning and disinfection regimen is necessary for prevention of not only COVID-19 but other respiratory illnesses.
Infection control CE for optometry
As optometry practices reactivate for routine, comprehensive eye health and vision care services, it's important for doctors and staff to determine priorities for preparing office space and clinical areas based on guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing the medical office and dispensary.
"It's important to recognize that there are very real differences between the common approaches that up until now we have utilized day to day to address contagion and infection control in our offices and in our lives," says Richard Castillo, O.D., D.O., assistant dean and clinical professor at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry. "Cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing are actually separate and distinct methods of infection control and need to be implemented within the proper context relative to the intended goal one seeks to achieve."
These are among the topics that Dr. Castillo intends to discuss during a two-part, continuing education (CE) series on infection control protocols in the optometric practice during the AOA's 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast, June 24-27. While Dr. Castillo will impart the basics of infection control in the first session, the second will provide actionable implementation advice for clinical practice.
Based on prevailing, credible guidance from the CDC and professional organizations, such as the AOA, the American Medical Association and other subspecialty societies, the courses offer all-around recommendations on infection control with a specific focus on COVID-19.
"There is still much we do not know about this virus and the evidence base is developing as the empirical data is collected and analyzed," Dr. Castillo says. "While it may seem that opinions and advice are plentiful coming from a plethora of sources, it is important for optometric physicians, as well as all health care professionals, to take their cues from those sources, which are positioned to deliver credible health care guidance."
This infection control guidance for health care facilities can be found in detail here:
- CDC's Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings.
- CDC's Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control FAQs for COVID-19.
- AOA's Optometry Practice Reactivation Preparedness Guide.
"The recent crisis has served to remind us all that infection control in the clinic is everyone's responsibility-doctor, staff and patient," Dr. Castillo says.
"We must recognize that there are very real consequences associated with how well we attend to both the obvious details, as well as the more subtle nuances involved. More than anything, as health care practitioners, we must realize that patients will present with heightened expectations and a much greater sense of awareness with regards to how meticulous the doctor and the office staff are when it comes to safeguarding their health. We must be cognizant of this responsibility and our duty to the patient who places trust in us."
Interested in AOA's 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast?
Interested in learning more about comprehensive infection control protocols in your practice? Doctors can earn COPE credit and paraoptometrics can earn CPC credit for both sessions of this two-part, integrated doctor-staff course. Here's what you need to know:
What: Basics of Infection Control
When: 6 p.m. CT, Friday, June 26
What: Infection Control: Implementation in a Clinical Practice
When: 12 p.m., Saturday, June 27
Registration now open
Doctors of optometry, paraoptometric staff and students can now register for the AOA 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast, June 24-27. One low, inclusive fee for AOA member doctors—and no cost for AOA member paraoptometric staff or AOSA-member optometry students-gains access to 53 hours of doctor education (26 hours CE credits), 19 hours of paraoptometric-exclusive education and 12 hours of integrated, doctor-paraoptometric education.
Virtual spaces are limited so register now to attend this event. For additional information and updates about this virtual learning opportunity, visit aoa.org/virtuallearninglivecast. Direct questions to the AOA Education Center.
This Contact Lens Health Week, Aug. 21-25, consider broadening the conversation about contact lenses beyond your patients and into your community to bring awareness about safe, healthy wear and care.