Subregional Contact Tracing Hub trials support for other respiratory illnesses

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Contact Tracing Hub, which deals primarily with cases of COVID-19 in complex settings, like prisons or special educational needs schools, has recently expanded its service to offer support for Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs) over the coming winter months.

ARIs are an infection that may interfere with normal breathing. It can affect the upper or lower respiratory system and can be particularly dangerous for children, older adults, and people with immune system disorders.

The Hub, a collaboration between the subregion’s nine Directors of Public Health (DsPH) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has been working since July 2020 to provide intensive contact tracing and additional support to the individuals and settings that need it most. It was set up rapidly by DsPH in response to pandemic and day to day management and facilitation is shared between UKHSA and the Champs Support Team.

This concentration on ARIs has been adopted thanks to guidance and governance from UKHSA and has been in place since Monday 8th November. Staff working in the subregional Hub have also received expert training from UKHSA and a Care Home Pack has been developed to support Community Infection Control Teams.

Early successes of this collaboration include the management of a situation in a care home, which required the local Community Infection Control Team and the Hub to work together. This resulted in the rapid trigger of a testing pathway and a UKHSA consultant recommending antiviral treatment following a risk assessment, which will have hopefully reduced the overall impact of the outbreak.

The support for ARIs from the Hub is the first time the team has supported another respiratory illness apart from COVID-19. DsPH will closely monitor the performance and outcomes of this work over the winter period and lessons learned will be taken into account when considering the next phase of contact tracing and health protection for Cheshire and Merseyside.