Matt Zahn IPC Champion

Member Spotlight: Dr. Matt Zahn recognized as NACCHO Infection Prevention and Control Champion

Apr 22, 2021 | Kimberly Nalley

NACCHO is pleased to announce Matt Zahn, M.D. as the latest Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Champion. Dr. Matt Zahn currently serves as the Medical Director for the Epidemiology, Assessment, and Immunization Program at the Orange County Health Care Agency in California (OCHCA) and the Director of Local Public Health Surveillance for Shared Healthcare Intervention to Eliminate Life-threatening Dissemination of MDROs (SHIELD) Orange County, a surveillance initiative aiming to lower rates of antimicrobial resistant infections.

NACCHO’s IPC Champion recognition highlights the IPC achievements of local health departments and honors the staff leading this work. Dr. Zahn is a leader in his field, whose efforts have prevented the spread of infectious diseases, amplified best practices, and informed national guidance.

On the local level: Orange County Health Care Agency

As the Medical Director for the Epidemiology, Assessment, and Immunization Program at OCHCA Dr. Zahn oversees the public health response to all communicable disease outbreaks in Orange County, the sixth largest county in the country with a population of 3.1 million. Dr. Zahn also oversees the public health immunization program, develops and maintains protocols for the Epidemiology and Assessment Program, and conducts community outreach to educate practitioners, community partners, and the general public about IPC related topics.

As the Director of Local Public Health Surveillance, SHIELD OC Dr. Zahn oversees the extensive countywide surveillance in support of a project supported by CDC with a goal of lowering the rates of antimicrobial resistant infections.

Dr. Matt Zahn works tirelessly to identify and respond to outbreaks, support healthcare facilities in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), and strengthen infectious disease guidance and practice locally and nation-wide. Since beginning his work in Orange County, his agency has made MRSA, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE), and ESBLs from hospitals and skilled nursing facilities laboratory reportable and preliminary SHIELD OC data indicate a significant decrease in key MDROs.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Matt Zahn continues to drive critical infection prevention and control efforts forward with the goal of reducing and eliminating HAIs and MDROs in his jurisdiction. His dedication to this work distinguishes him as a NACCHO IPC Champion.

Dr. Zahn has led Orange County’s response to many notable outbreaks in healthcare settings. In 2019, he mounted a major response to healthcare-associated Candida auris (C. auris), conducting regular point prevalence surveys to identify and monitor spread, analyzing infection prevention measures, and making recommendations. This response was successful in slowing the spread, though COVID-19 has introduced new challenges and multiple C. auris outbreaks have been recorded in facilities that had previously contained infections.

To combat these resurgences Orange County has been conducting regular point prevalence surveys in high-risk facilities such as long-term acute care hospitals and subacute units of nursing homes. Further, when working with these facilities on COVID-19, Dr. Zahn continues to communicate the importance C. auris prevention. His COVID-19 response team has leveraged their relationship with the facilities to address C. auris issues by reviewing practices, making recommendations, and continuing point prevalence surveys to remind healthcare providers of the continuing threat of MDROs, even during the ongoing pandemic. A feature article highlighting Orange County’s experience with MDROs during COVID-19 can be found here. He is dedicated to supporting healthcare facilities to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, improve patient safety, and prevent deaths related to healthcare-associated infections.

Impact beyond Orange County

Dr. Zahn is also committed to informing guidance and practices at the state and national level. He is a leader amongst his peers nationwide and participates as a member of several organizations at the forefront in addressing infectious disease issues. Dr. Zahn is the current president for the California Association of Communicable Disease Controllers HAI Workgroup and served as the CRE Workgroup chairman from 2015-2016. He has also been a member of the California Department of Public Health HAI Workgroup member since 2012.

At the national level, Dr. Zahn chairs NACCHO’s Immunization Workgroup and since 2011 has served as NACCHO’s liaison to The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). He sits on ACIP workgroups regarding a wide range of infectious agents of concern such as influenza, hepatitis, anthrax, and rabies. Dr. Zahn has been a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America since 2005 and the American Academy of Pediatrics member since 2004.

Dr. Zahn has made extensive contributions and demonstrated unwavering commitment to infection prevention and control. He lends his time and expertise to respond to local infectious disease threats and share his experiences via publication and representation on state and national groups to apply his experiences to conversations, guidance, and decisions.

Publications

To contribute to the collective body of knowledge related to infectious disease issues, Dr. Zahn has published numerous relevant peer-reviewed articles. Some of Dr. Zahn’s publications related to IPC can be found below:

  1. Zahn, M, Marshall, GS: Clinical and epidemiological aspects of rotavirus infection. Pediatric Annals 35:23-8, 2006.
  2. Zahn, M, Pursiful, P, Carrico R, Woods, C, Troutman, A. Self-Immunization with Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine in a Mass Vaccination Clinic. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness 7:215-217, 2012.
  3. Zahn, M. Just When You Think You Know Someone: The Evolving Epidemiologies of Measles and Pertussis. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 28(1):101-6, 2016.
  4. Zahn M, Adalja AA, Auwaerter PG, Edelson PJ, Hansen GR, Hynes NA, Jezek A, MacArthur RD, Manabe YC, McGoodwin C, Duchin JS; Infectious Diseases Society of America. Infectious Diseases Physicians: Improving and Protecting the Public’s Health- Why Equitable Compensation is Critical. Clin Infect Dis. 69(2):352-356, 2019.
  5. McKinnell, JA, Singh, RD, Miller, LG, Kleinman, K, Gussin, G, He, J, Saavedra, R, Dutciuc, TD, Estevez, M, Chang, J, Heim, L, Yamaguchi, S, Custodio, H, Gohil, SK, Park, S, Tam, S, Robinson, PA, Tjoa, T, Nguyen, J, Evans, KD, Bittencourt, CE, Lee, BY, Mueller, LE, Bartsch, SM, Jernigan, JA, Slayton, RB, Stone, ND, Zahn, M, Mor, V, McConeghy, K, Baier, RR, Janssen, L, O’Donnell, K, Weinstein, RA, Hayden, MK, Coady, MH, Bhattarai, M, Peterson, EM, Huang, SS. The SHIELD Orange County Project -Multi Drug-Resistant Organism (MDRO) Prevalence in 21 Nursing Homes and Long Term Acute Care Facilities in Southern California. Clin Infect Dis. 2019 Feb 11. Epub ahead of print.
  6. Rizzo, K, Yi, S, Garcia, E, Zahn, M, Epson, E. Reduction in Clostridium difficile Infection Rates Following a Multifacility Prevention Initiative in Orange County, California:A Controlled Interrupted Time Series Evaluation. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 40(8):872-879, 2019.
  7. Lu L, Roland E, Shearer E, Zahn M, Djuric M, McDonald E, Redd S, Tardivel K. Notes from the Field: Measles Outbreak Associated with International Air Travel - California, March-April 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Jun 26;69(25):803-804.

COVID-19 related publications:

  1. The COVID-19 Investigation Team Clinical and virologic characteristics of the first 12 patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States. Nature Medicine. volume 26, pages861–868(2020)
  2. Hagan LM, Williams SP, Spaulding AC, Toblin RL, Figlenski J, Ocampo J, Ross T, Bauer H, Hutchinson J, Lucas KD, Zahn M, Chiang C, Collins T, Burakoff A, Bettridge J, Stringer G, Maul R, Waters K, Dewart C, Clayton J, de Fijter S, Sadacharan R, Garcia L, Lockett N, Short K, Sunder L, Handanagic S. Mass Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in 16 Prisons and Jails - Six Jurisdictions, United States, April-May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Aug 21;69(33):1139-1143.
  3. COVID 19 Investigation Team Enhanced contact investigations for nine early travel-related cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States PLoS One 2020 Sep 2;15(9):e0238342.
  4. Fintzi J, Bayer D, Goldstein I, Lumbard K, Ricotta E, Warner S, Busch LM, Strich JR, Chertow DS, Parker DM, Boden-Albala B, Dratch A, Chhuon R, Quick N, Zahn M, Minin VN. Using multiple data streams to estimate and forecast SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics, with application to the virus spread in Orange County, California. ArXiv. 2020 Sep 6:arXiv:2009.
  5. Burke RM, Balter S, Barnes E,Barry V...Zahn M. Enhanced contact investigations for nine early travel-related cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 2;15(9):e0238342
  6. Brant-Zawadzki M, Fridman D, Robinson PA, Zahn M, Chau C, German R, Breit M, Bock JR, Hara J. SARS-CoV-2 antibody prevalence in health care workers: Preliminary report of a single center study. PLoS One. 2020 Nov 12;15(11):e0240006.

About Kimberly Nalley

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