The World Health Network Expresses Concerns Over CDC’s Draft Guidance on Preventing Infectious Disease Spread
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The World Health Network Expresses Concerns Over CDC’s Draft Guidance on Preventing Infectious Disease Spread.
Cambridge, MA, Aug 11, 2023 – The World Health Network (WHN), a voluntary public health advocacy organization with professional and citizen members around the world, is deeply troubled by the current approach taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in developing guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Given the hesitant and imperfect response to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which has resulted in a significant number of illnesses and fatalities among US citizens, WHN’s analysis demonstrates that the review of infection control practices is both ill-considered and inadequate. The CDC’s attempt to simplify and restrict guidance fails to apply valuable lessons learned from past experiences. This lack of foresight is particularly evident with the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2, driven by the highly transmissible variant of concern known as Eris.
Despite a wealth of evidence supporting the effectiveness of respirator masks, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), an advisory body to the CDC, has questioned the advantage of N95 masks over surgical masks in protecting against airborne transmission. In our opinion, HICPAC has erroneously conflated airborne droplet spread with aerosol spread during their June 2023 meeting. It is now well-established that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol particles, which can travel beyond 6 feet and linger in the air for hours, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Contrary to HICPAC’s claims that data indicate comparable protection, WHN emphasizes the need for the use of N95 or better respirators even for diseases classified as “seasonal” or during non-pandemic phases. This is in line with longstanding CDC guidance for protection against active tuberculosis, another aerosol-spread infection.
Furthermore, WHN underscores HICPAC’s oversight in failing to factor in risk mitigation for asymptomatic transmission, as well as the heightened protection needs for high-risk populations in healthcare facilities. The advisory committee has also failed to recognize the importance of beneficial systemic clean air standards through ventilation and air filtering, as well as surveillance testing as is continuing to be done by the White House. Additionally, critical factors in new peaks of transmission such as the rapid evolution of new variants/subvariants, increased travel and multi-household gatherings, and waning immunity have not been adequately acknowledged.
WHN points to the need for risk prevention guidance to respond to the unfortunate absence of real-time and reliable national disease reporting, as well as the urgency for robust early warning mechanisms.
The draft guidelines developed by HICPAC, which were criticized by WHN, did not have input from the most affected populations: patients at high risk, and healthcare worker representatives. This lack of involvement undermines the potential effectiveness of the guidance. WHN strongly advocates for the development of new guidance through an open process that incorporates the perspectives of the most affected groups.
As an organization committed to public health advocacy, WHN urges the CDC to reconsider its current approach and develop science-based guidance that prioritizes the protection of individuals and communities from infectious diseases. WHN stands ready to collaborate and contribute to the development of more comprehensive and effective preventive measures.
About The World Health Network:
The World Health Network is a voluntary public health advocacy organization composed of professional and citizen members from countries worldwide. WHN works towards promoting global health and addressing critical challenges in public health through collaboration, research, and advocacy.