Healthcare facilities should maintain and strengthen infection prevention and control measures during peaks of respiratory viruses transmission

ECDC recommends that healthcare facilities maintain and strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, due to the high community transmission and co-circulation of respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and others. The implementation should be based on an approach that considers all these viruses.

The recommendations are part of the report Considerations for infection prevention and control practices for respiratory viral infections in healthcare settings, published on Monday by the ECDC.

The simultaneous circulation of different viruses poses a significant challenge for the management of large numbers of patients with respiratory viral infections and may lead to outbreaks in healthcare settings. 

IPC practices mitigate the spread of respiratory viruses within healthcare facilities that are especially at risk during times of peak respiratory virus circulation and hospital admissions. These consist of administrative measures (such as triage and placement of patients), standard precautions (especially hand hygiene) with appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and environmental measures (such as cleaning and ventilation).  

Testing for the early detection of COVID-19, influenza and RSV cases is recommended in order to facilitate the optimal management of admitted patients, and appropriate room- and bed allocation.

During periods of high community transmission of respiratory viruses, staff, visitors, and patients, should be advised - in addition to appropriate hand and respiratory hygiene - to wear medical face masks in the common areas of health facilities and patient rooms.

The measures can be adjusted when the period of high community transmission is over. Healthcare facilities should ensure that PPE is available and appropriately used to protect staff providing patient care. Vaccination for seasonal influenza and COVID-19 should be offered to all healthcare facility staff.

In hospital rooms, regular cleaning of the floor and frequently touched surfaces followed by disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is recommended, using hospital disinfectants active against viruses.

Ventilation is a key environmental measure for the prevention of respiratory viral infections in healthcare and other closed settings. 

Additional IPC interventions include ensuring physical distancing measures, particularly in common areas and home visiting services for vulnerable patients, and if feasible, avoiding crowded outpatient and emergency services.