The Science Is (Un)Settled… Ebola Guidelines & Gear Deemed Insufficient

ebola worker

The science is settled.
Except when it’s not.

Ebola treatment gear guidelines and design have been deemed “insufficient” and in need of “redesign”. Perhaps that’s why over 230 doctors and nurses have become infected and died from treating Ebola patients. And this might explain why Ebola is known as “the nurse killer.

From The Scientific American today:

More than 500 health care workers have contracted Ebola since the outbreak began in December 2013, and 269 have died, according to WHO statistics through the end of October. Some of the deaths resulted from faulty or nonexistent personal protective equipment (PPE)—gloves, masks and other barriers used to block Ebola transmission. Yet more recent cases in well-equipped U.S. hospitals and in Spain have uncovered a broader PPE-related problem: the guidelines for how to use the gear were insufficient.

In the past few weeks both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated their PPE guidelines. In addition to encouraging health care workers to better cover their mucous membranes and skin when treating Ebola patients, the CDC in particular is advising greater caution and a strict adherence to the buddy system when removing coveralls and gloves potentially exposed to the virus.

Health care workers should also wear a fluid-resistant, particulate-filtering respirator during procedures that generate aerosols of body fluids.

The agency also warns health care professionals that no skin should be exposed when workers are fully suited…

Given the ideal characteristics of equipment for health care workers and others caring for patients with Ebola, “reengineering of PPE with new materials and designs is required, both in U.S. hospitals but more critically for the outbreak zones in Africa,” the group concluded.

Why the new focus on zero skin exposure versus previous CDC guidelines followed that left Dallas nurses’ necks exposed? Likely because penetration through intact skin has not been definitively ruled out.”

The specificity of the new guidelines’ respirator requirements may point to shifting information regarding potential airborne spread of Ebola.

The Science is Settled – Except When It Isn’t.

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