Personal protective equipment is critical but not enough to shield health care workers from Ebola*
Personal protective equipment designed to shield health care workers from contaminated body fluids of Ebola patients is not enough to prevent transmission, according to a commentary being published early online today in Annals of Internal Medicine. Despite the known effectiveness of barrier protection in blocking Ebola transmission, infections among health care workers have played a major role in outbreaks. William A. Fischer II, MD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and co-authors write that there are two factors contributing to the high rate of Ebola infection among health care workers: insufficient supply of personal protective equipment and lack of emphasis on the process of donning and doffing it. Ebola is transmitted through direct or indirect contact between bodily fluids from an infected patient and breaks in the skin or exposed mucous membranes of an uninfected person. Even with personal protective gear, a health care worker is at risk for infection if removal of contaminated protective clothing is not done carefully. To prevent unwitting transmission from contaminated body fluids on personal protective equipment, the authors suggest a structure and systematic process be strictly followed for gear removal.
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*Annals of Internal Medicine is part of the Emergency Access Initiative (EAI), a partnership of the National Library of Medicine, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers and other publishers. EAI provides temporary free access to full text articles from major biomedicine titles to health care professionals, librarians, and the public affected by disasters. As such, Annals content will be free to site visitors from the West African countries affected by the Ebola virus outbreak.