Protection of healthcare workers is key to containing and managing respiratory pandemics. Serious geopolitical and social forces are converging to create the conditions, on a scale unique in history, for a major respiratory pandemic. When dealing with an outbreak of respiratory infection, the focus is on understanding disease transmission, and ensuring that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available and properly utilized by all at-risk staff. Only a few hospitals are adequately equipped and ready to respond to a major respiratory pandemic. In such a global crisis, the success of controlling such an outbreak in the initial phase will rely on the health and preparedness of healthcare teams.
Prioritizing protection of healthcare workers from primary to regional hospitals can ensure a resilient front line defense, and, in a respiratory outbreak the correct use of respiratory PPE is central to healthcare worker protection. Recent experience of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015, highlighted the vulnerabilities around use and supply shortages of disposable respirators.
Commentators and industry experts are advising infection control teams to examine their PPE procedures and evaluate new re-useable respiratory protection devices in their preparations to protect staff and contain and manage an imminent public health crisis.