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PPE and Avian Flu

With the news media giving extensive coverage to the Avian flu, many questions have arisen about what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed for adequate protection.

First, it needs to be clear that there are NO documented cases of rapid person-to-person transmission of the Avian flu. Until such transmission is documented ƒ and cases are reported in the United States ƒ only planning needs to be in place. The CDC is currently recommending that PPE for Avian flu cases include:„

΄standard surgical masks;

΄medical gloves; and

΄cover gowns.

There is no recommendation for the use of N95 or P100 respirators for protection from the Avian flu. Current data shows that the avian flu in humans appears to live deep in the lungs and is not transmitted by coughing or sneezing.

Your planning should include assessing the normal pattern of PPE use in your workplace and how this usage might change if a flu outbreak were to occur.

Katherine H. West, BSN, MSEd, CIC, has been working with EMS and Public Safety Agencies since 1978 regarding infection control issues. She lectures both nationally and internationally on this topic, publishes books, videotapes and articles on infection control-related issues and has served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health representing EMS issues and concerns. She is on the faculty for the EMS degree program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is author of the Infectious Disease Handbook for Emergency Care Personnel, now in its third edition. Contact her via e-mail at„info@ic-ec.com.

References:

www.pandemicflu.gov (Health-care professionals section. Infection control.)

This checklist, developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identifies key areas for pandemic influenza planning. EMS and non-emergency (medical) transport organizations can use this tool to self-assess and identify the strengths and weakness of current planning. Links to Web sites with information are provided throughout the document:„http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/emgncymedical.html

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