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Ebola and Personal Protective Equipment

Ebola_IMG_9576With the now third documented case of a US Healthcare worker being infected with the Ebola virus, and daily news reports about the horrific situation in Liberia and other African countries, more and more people are looking to educate themselves about this disease and to learn the facts with regards to its prevention, spread and control.  The images of Doctors and other Healthcare Workers heavily dressed in protective clothing while they are treating patients are truly concerning images, but let’s seek to understand both the disease itself, as well as the needs for those precautions and when and where they are warranted.

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains (Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Tai Forest virus). Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in several African countries.

We are currently experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak in history, and the first in West Africa. The outbreak is currently affecting four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. While this outbreak does not pose a significant risk to the United States, the more informed we are about this disease, how it is spread, and the correct protective protocols for Healthcare Workers, the more comfortable we can be in knowing the risks associated with it

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are two of the most respected sources for information with regards to the spread, treatment and control of infectious diseases around the world.  Their websites provide both technical information, not only on the Ebola virus, but also provide detailed information on the currently affected areas of the world.  The Ebola page for the CDC address the concerns of US healthcare workers and citizens, while the WHO’s Global Alert and Response webpage for Ebola virus highlights the coordinated international response that is being implemented in West Africa.

More than 100 health-care workers worldwide have been exposed to the Ebola virus while caring for patients. This has happened because they may not have been wearing Personal Protection Equipment or were not properly applying the correct infection prevention and control measures when caring for the patients.

Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is the front line of protection for healthcare workers who are in direct contact with Ebola patients.  Healthcare Workers and Organizations need to make sure that the PPE they are utilizing meet the standards for protection from blood and blood borne pathogens,  Seam construction of the protective garment is a key component to providing the proper level of protection.  Since the Ebola virus is transmitted via contact with infected body fluids, protective garments should have seams that are sealed to prevent against liquid penetration. 

Lakeland's ChemMax1 with sealed seams is well suited for this dangerous environment.  Lakeland’s ChemMax1 fabric passes both ASTM F1670 and ASTM F1671 test methods for protection from blood penetration and blood borne pathogens.  ChemMax1 also goes above and beyond the ASTM tests by performing at the highest possible levels in the more comprehensive European Norms (EN) and ISO testing standards related to infectious agents.  The performance of ChemMax1 in testing protocols from around the world, combined with sealed seams for increased protection against fluid penetration; makes it easy to see why these humanitarian groups are trusting Lakeland’s ChemMax1 for protection.

Both the CDC and WHO provide detailed instructions for Healthcare Workers with regards to the correct procedures for both putting on and removing Personal Protective Equipment.  Proper disposal of potentially contaminated Personal Protective Equipment is also key to helping prevent the continued spread of the virus.  It is also essential to follow proper hand hygiene protocol prior to putting on and after removing PPE.

It would certainly be our hope that we have seen the last of any Healthcare Worker to be infected with Ebola.  Through continued education and access to the proper Personal Protective Equipment throughout the world, we would like to believe that the effects of this disease on Healthcare Workers assisting those stricken with the virus will be minimal. 

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