PPE Appears Adequate to Protect Clinicians With Frontline COVID-19 Exposure
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that pharmacists don more extensive personal protective equipment for some activities, such as immunization. Find out why a Chinese study says that is likely to be adequate for protection, even if the patient has COVID-19.
GUANGZHOU, CHINA – Close contact activities such as vaccination might make pharmacists nervous during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study provides some reassurance that personal protective equipment appears to work well.
A report in The BMJ suggests that, in China at the height of the novel coronavirus outbreak there, frontline healthcare professionals who were appropriately protected did not contract infection or develop protective immunity against the virus.
First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University-led researchers point out that, in the case of the Wuhan outbreak, healthcare professionals were working away from home and had limited social interactions after work, which probably contributed to the absence of infection.
Still, they emphasize that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) was shown effective in preventing infection in healthcare professionals who work in highly exposed environments.
Included in the study were 420 healthcare professionals -- 116 physicians and 304 nurses -- with an average age of 36 years. They were deployed to Wuhan for six to eight weeks from Jan. 24, 2020, to April 7, 2020, to care for COVID-19 patients. The healthcare professionals worked four-to-six-hour shifts for an average of 5.4 days a week, and an average of 16.2 hours each week in intensive care units.
Participants not only were provided with appropriate PPE, including protective suits, masks, gloves, goggles, face shields, and gowns, they also received training in the correct use of PPE and in reducing their exposure to infection when caring for patients.
During the deployment period in Wuhan, none of the study participants reported novel coronavirus-related symptoms. When the participants returned home, they all tested negative for active COVID-19 or antibodies indicating they had been exposed to the virus.
The study does not advise on the minimal level of PPE for protection and only apply to clinicians directly interacting with COVID-19 patients.
"However, this limitation does not affect our conclusion that appropriate PPE is effective in preventing infection in healthcare professionals who work in highly exposed environments," the authors write, adding, "Before a safe and effective vaccine becomes available, healthcare professionals remain susceptible to COVID-19. Healthcare systems must give priority to the procurement and distribution of PPE and provide adequate training to healthcare professionals in its use."