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Sep 26, 2007 (CIDRAP News) - An Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that studied issues concerning personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in an influenza pandemic is calling for renewed efforts to learn how influenza viruses spread, promote proper use of PPE, and improve the equipment itself.
The 12-member panel met in Washington, DC, in February and May to hear comments from stakeholders such as medical experts, manufacturers, and government agencies on masks, gowns, respirators, and related items. The group's mission was to recommend research directions, government agency roles, and policy changes, but not to issue guidelines about PPE use during a pandemic.
The group's 192-page peer-reviewed report was released Sep 18. It says the study was requested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than 13 million US workers are employed in healthcare, according to the report, and public health officials worry that in a pandemic, medical staff won't report to work if they don't feel they're adequately protected.
Divided into three main parts, the report explores what is known and where research gaps exist concerning influenza transmission, use of PPE among healthcare workers, and PPE design, testing, and certification.
Flu transmission studies badly needed
Most studies on influenza transmission were conducted before 1970, and the report says more research should be done to build on earlier findings and apply new technologies, which include airborne-particle size analyzers and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays. Advances in fields such as aerobiology and mathematical modeling could also contribute to the study of seasonal and avian influenza, the group reported.
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