Modification urged for H1N1 protection among healthcare employees

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Washington, Nov 7 (ANI): N95 respirators don't offer additional protection against H1N1 influenza than provided by the use of surgical masks, infectious disease experts have said.

Federal PPE guidance and requirements issued recently by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA suggest the use of fit-tested N95 respirators by healthcare workers rather than the use of standard surgical masks.

Experts from three leading scientific organizations specializing in infectious diseases prevention have expressed concern over the current federal guidance concerning the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare workers in treating suspected or confirmed cases of 2009 H1N1.

They have written to US President Barack Obama urging the administration to modify the guidance and issue an immediate moratorium on Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) enforcement of the current requirements.

Citing two recent studies the experts said that N95 respirators does not offer additional protection over that provided by the use of surgical masks.

Dr Mark Rupp, president of SHEA, called the current requirements "deeply flawed" and expressed his concern over the "potential for considerable untoward consequences" that could result from the guidance.

Among the consequences, Rupp cited significant confusion among healthcare professionals and administrators and the potential for further limiting the availability of the already scarce respirators in situations where they are truly warranted.

"During a time of a national emergency, healthcare professionals need clear, practical and evidence-based guidance from the government," said Dr Richard Whitley, president of IDSA.

"The current guidance is not supported by the best-available science and only serves to create skepticism toward federal public and occupational health decision-making," he added.

"The supply of N95 respirators is rapidly being depleted in our healthcare facilities," said APIC 2009 President Christine Nutty, RN, MSN, CIC.

"We are concerned that there won't be an adequate supply to protect healthcare workers when TB patients enter the healthcare system," Nutty added. (ANI)

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