Thursday, April 10, 2003

SARS At Home: Is Transmission to Health Care Workers Important (from a public health perspective)?

The New York Times reports that there have been over 150 cases of SARS in the United States, including three health care workers. No one has died. There seems to be some controversy emerging, however, about what the U.S. is reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the importance U.S. health officials place on workplace transmission.

Although the World Health Organization has asked countries to send information about every case, the U.S. has apparently not reported "secondary transmission case" Patient to health care worker transmission are considered by the CDC as "secondary transmission," as opposed to "community transmission." The U.S. has only been reporting "community transmission" to the WHO.
Because the secondary spread to hospital workers and household members "represents close contact transmission of patient to health care worker or ill person to family contact in a household setting," the C.D.C. does not consider such secondary transmission as community transmission, Dr. [James] Hughes said
And as for health care workers...
"What is important from a public health perspective is are you having uncontrolled transmission in a community setting, and that clearly is not happening in the United States," Dr. Hughes said." .

I would wager that there are some health care workers would probably dispute the contention that transmission in a health care environment is not "important from a public health perspective." Once again, we are taken back to those days of yesteryear when the CDC overlooked the crucial role that health care workers play in any health crisis (then it was AIDS), and the priority that must be placed on caring for the caregivers if they expect the caregivers to be able to do their jobs.