and utilize innovative materials and technologies to create the next generation of PPE capable of meeting these needs. Increasing the use of field testing in the pre-market phase and conducting thorough post-marketing evaluations are vital to producing effective equipment, as is the creation of rigorous federal regulatory and testing requirements. The committee believes that improvements can be made so that healthcare workers will have PPE that provides protection against influenza transmission based on a rigorous risk assessment with solid scientific evidence. The recommendations provided in this report are intended to serve as a framework and catalyst for a national PPE action plan that is an integral part of the overall national plan for an influenza pandemic.
During an influenza pandemic, healthcare workers will be on the front lines delivering care to patients and preventing further spread of the disease. As the nation prepares for pandemic influenza, multiple avenues for protecting the health of the public are being carefully considered, ranging from rapid development of appropriate vaccines to quarantine plans should the need arise for their implementation. One vital aspect of pandemic influenza planning is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)—the respirators, gowns, gloves, face shields, eye protection, and other equipment that will be used by healthcare workers and others in their day-to-day patient care responsibilities.
However, efforts to appropriately protect healthcare workers from illness or from infecting their families and their patients are greatly hindered by the paucity of data on the transmission of influenza and the challenges associated with training and equipping healthcare workers with effective personal protective equipment. Due to this lack of knowledge on influenza transmission, it is not possible at the present time to definitively inform healthcare workers about what PPE is critical and what level of protection this equipment will provide in a pandemic. The outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 have underscored the importance of protecting healthcare workers from infectious agents. The surge capacity that will be required to reduce mortality from a pandemic cannot be met if healthcare workers are themselves ill or are absent due to concerns about PPE efficacy. The increased emphasis on healthcare PPE and the related challenges anticipated during an influenza pandemic necessitate prompt attention to ensuring the safety and efficacy of PPE products and their use.