As the Ebola virus again raises its ugly head in Africa – this time in Congo – and with the World Health Organisation on the verge of declaring the latest outbreak an emergency of international significance, now seems a good time to refresh our guidance on selection of appropriate protective clothing for health workers involved in the care of victims.
At the time of writing in the current outbreak there are 44 known infections and 22 deaths. However, a confirmed infection has been found in Mbandaka; this is of particular concern as not only because this a city of over 1 million people, but also as it is a main transport hub on the Congo River, so the possibility of spread to other urban areas is high.
Our advice document on selection of the appropriate protective clothing for health workers can be downloaded by clicking the button below. The primary route of infection for Ebola is via blood and body fluids, so protection must be focused on ensuring no such contact is made with the skin of care workers.
The key requirements are to ensure that garments:
- are certified to EN 14126 AND meet AT LEAST class 3 in the key related EN ISO 16604 test against penetration of blood and body fluids (Note: not the EN 16603 test which has NO classification in the standard and is NOT a test indicating any level of protection. See our blog clarifying some misunderstandings of this standard here).
- are certified at least to CE EN 14605 Type 4: garments for protection against sprays of hazardous liquids. This ensures the garments have sealed seams and a secure and sealed front fastening. (Simple Type 5 and 6 garments featuring stitched seams are NOT sufficient – blood can too easily penetrate through seam holes).
- Alternatively, according to US standards and conventions, garments should be constructed of materials that pass the ASTM F1671 viral barrier test, and should feature sealed seams, elasticated hood cuffs and ankles and feature a sealable storm flap covering the zipper.
A further vital issue in Ebola care is ensuring a correct donning and doffing procedure is in place. The most critical time when wearing garments is arguably when removing them; it is likely that nurses contracting the virus during the last major outbreak were infected when removing a garment and not whilst actually caring for a patient. This is partly because during doffing the outside surface of the garment is probably contaminated and partly because having emerged from the critical area, wearers may relax and take less care.
You can view our guidance video on donning and doffing procedures, which provides good guidelines on do’s and don'ts for any clothing for protection against hazardous liquids or dusts here.
During the last outbreak Lakeland provided a large number of ChemMax 1 EB garments to the UK Government Department of International Development which handled the relief effort in Sierra Leone, and given the news this week we are already in the process of assessing stocks and manufacturing levels to ensure a rapid response if needed. Hopefully, on this occasion it will prove an academic exercise and the current outbreak will be effectively controlled.
If you would like to stay prepared for future virus outbreaks, you can download our Ebola Virus: Guide to Garment Selection and Use eBook: