Historically, public health messaging for pneumococcal disease prevention has centered around vaccination. While this remains paramount, a recent study conducted in China and other countries in East Asia highlights the key role of behavior and public health measures in reducing the transmission of S. pneumoniae. Older adults and high-risk individuals should consider adopting more meticulous infection control practices such as frequent hand hygiene and mask-wearing during seasonal increases in respiratory illnesses, even during non-outbreak periods. At a national level, there is scope for sustained public health education and infection control policies beyond the COVID-19 period to reduce the burden of respiratory infections.
This study observed a decreased incidence of pneumococcal disease that corresponded with the time period when public health measures were implemented to control COVID-19, suggesting that these measures had also had an inadvertent effect on the transmission of S. pneumoniae. As such, behavioral and infection control measures should be considered as part of a long-term prevention effort. This is exactly what the regulations ask of us, acceptable infection control practices, not just when there is an outbreak but BEFORE an outbreak! What great advice and interesting study!
Stay well, stay safe and stay tuned!