Breaches in infection control practices during last spring’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) surge likely contributed to a 34-patient outbreak of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) infections at a New Jersey hospital.
CRAB infections are a pressing public health concern because the bacteria may linger on hospital surfaces or spread via asymptomatic individuals or on caregivers’ hands. Although many hospitals have CRAB surveillance and strict infection prevention and control practices, the New Jersey hospital changed some of its infection control methods in March 2020 as the proportion of patients with COVID-19 approached 60%.
After the hospital reported the outbreak in May, New Jersey public health authorities found that the surge of COVID-19 patients led to shortages in personnel, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment. To manage the shortages and minimize clinicians’ infection risk, some infection prevention and control practices were intentionally suspended. For example, instead of routinely replacing ventilator circuits and suctioning catheters at set intervals, hospital staff replaced only the devices that were visibly soiled or malfunctioning. To conserve a supply of gowns, the hospital limited their use to care for patients with certain infections, including CRAB.