CDC Gives New Rules for Protecting Workers From Ebola

A healthcare professional adjusts her mask during a demonstration of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procedures at Toronto Western Hospital. (Photo: Chris Young, AP)
A healthcare professional adjusts her mask during a demonstration of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procedures at Toronto Western Hospital.
(Photo: Chris Young, AP)

Hospital workers treating Ebola patients should wear double sets of gloves, disposable hoods with full face shields and special masks, according to stronger guidelines issued Monday night by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidelines focus on personal protective equipment, or PPE, giving hospitals and clinics more specific instructions about gloves, gowns and face masks, and how they should be put on and taken off.

Nurses and other medical professionals have expressed concern that they are unprepared and unprotected when treating patients suspected of having Ebola. Nurses have complained that they were sent into the room of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the USA, with the skin around their neck exposed. Two nurses who treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital became infected with the virus and are now hospitalized.

The CDC has weathered fierce criticism for its handling of the Ebola cases. But infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm praised the agency for issuing step-by-step instructions that are clear and comprehensive. He said the CDC listened to experts in occupational safety, as well as workers in the field.

“These are a major step forward in protecting workers from Ebola virus infection,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“But these recommendations just by themselves do not make for a safer work environment,” Osterholm said. “Training is critical. We need to train people how to use PPE safely and effectively.”

The CDC guidelines are similar to those used by Doctors Without Borders, which is highly respected worldwide for its policies for treating Ebola patients. The group, which has been fighting Ebola since March and has 3,000 workers in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, has a better track record than many others. Twenty-one of its staff have become infected with Ebola, but few of those infections were in a hospital, spokesman Tim Shenk says, with most infections among Doctors Without Borders staff occurring after local workers went home to their communities.

Following the model of Doctors Without Borders, the CDC now says that all health workers should be supervised by a trained monitor who watches each one put their PPE on and off.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said all health workers also should undergo “rigorous training” and practice in putting on and taking off PPE in a systematic way that reduces their risk of infection. There should be no exposed skin, Frieden said.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Liz Szabo

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