Personal protective equipment for preventing highly infectious diseases due to exposure to contaminated body fluids in healthcare staff

Verbeek,J.H. et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.2016, Issue 4.

Clothes and equipment for healthcare staff to prevent Ebola and other highly infective diseases

NHS Framework Documant 2008

Healthcare staff are at much greater risk of infections such as Ebola Virus Disease or SARS than people in general. One way of preventing infection is to use personal protective equipment, such as protective clothing, gloves, masks, and goggles to prevent contamination of the worker. It is unclear which type of equipment protects best and how it can best be removed after use. It is also unclear what is the best way to train workers to comply with guidance for this equipment.

Studies found

We found six studies with 295 participants in which workers’ protective clothing was sprayed with a fluorescent marker or a harmless virus to simulate what happens in hospitals. Four of these compared different types of protective clothing. Two studies compared different ways of putting clothing on and taking it off. Three studies with 905 participants compared the effect of active training on the use of protective equipment to passive training. All studies had a high risk of bias.

Various types of clothing compared

In spite of protective clothing, the marker was found on the skin of 25% to 100% of workers. In one study, more breathable clothing did not lead to more contamination than non-breathable clothing, but users were more satisfied. Gowns led to less contamination than aprons in another study. Two studies did not report enough data to enable conclusions. This evidence was of very low quality.

Various types of removal of clothing compared

In one study, two pairs of gloves led to less contamination than only one pair of gloves. The outer gloves were immediately removed after the task was finished. In another study, following CDC guidance for apron or gown removal led to less contamination. This evidence was also of very low quality.

Active training

Active training, including computer simulation and spoken instructions, led to less errors with guidance on which protection to use and how to remove it among healthcare staff compared to passive training.

Quality of the evidence

We judged the quality of the evidence to be very low because of limitations in the studies, indirectness and small numbers of participants.

What do we still need to find out?

There were no studies on the effects of goggles, face shields, long-sleeved gloves or taping on the risk of contamination. We need simulation studies with several dozens of participants, preferably using exposure to a harmless virus, to find out which type and combination is most protective. The best way to remove protective clothing after use is also unclear. We need studies that use chance to assign workers to different types of training to find out which training works best. Healthcare staff exposed to highly infectious diseases should have their protective equipment registered and be followed for their risk of infection. We urge WHO and NGOs to organise more studies.

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