SHEA Publishes New Guidance for Infectious Disease Outbreak Response

By on 7:01 AM

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) has published new guidance for hospitals to assist with preparing for and containing infection disease outbreaks.

The document, titled "Outbreak Response and Incident Management: SHEA Guidance and Resources for Healthcare Epidemiologists in United States Acute-Care Hospitals," was developed with support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

It's intended to provide healthcare epidemiologists in acute-care hospitals with an overview of incident management for outbreaks and help prepare them to work within an emergency response framework.

In a news release, David Banach, MD, co-chair of the writing panel (i.e., the authors) and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut and hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health, stated, "This guidance details the role of the healthcare epidemiologist as an expert and leader supporting hospitals in preparing for, stopping and recovering from infectious diseases crises. Armed with the resources to develop and support key activities, healthcare epidemiologists can utilize their skills and expertise in investigation and response to infectious disease outbreaks within a hospital's incident command system."

Topics addressed in the document include the following:
  • incident management organizational structures;
  • stakeholders in preparedness and response;
  • communication strategies;
  • legal, ethical and regulatory requirements;
  • leadership role, activities and responsibilities of the healthcare epidemiologist in incident management;
  • role of the healthcare epidemiologist in coordination with stakeholders;
  • equipment and supplies for management of an emerging pathogen outbreak;
  • role of the healthcare epidemiologist in experimental vaccines, therapeutics and clinical research during an emerging pathogen outbreak; and
  • role of infection prevention staff and direct care healthcare professionals.
While the document is intended for healthcare epidemiologists working in acute-care hospitals, the authors noted that its principles may be applicable to other types of facilities, such as freestanding emergency departments, urgent care centers, long-term care and nontraditional acute-care settings.

SHEA indicated that to operationalize the new guidance document, the organization intends to conduct an outbreak response workshop in January, develop and share toolkits based on the recommendations and provide online training modules and webinars.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.