Personal protective equipment crucial in the fight against Ebola

Personal protective equipment crucial in the fight against Ebola

At the beginning of 2014, an Ebola epidemic broke out in the West-African country Guinea. From there it spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. According to recent figures released at the beginning of November by the World Health Organization (WHO), the death toll of the epidemic has reached 4848, whereas the number of infections has risen to 13042. The WHO underlines that these figures are an underestimation, as many victims do not make themselves known.

In order to win the fight against Ebola, there is an urgent need in the field for more Ebola treatment centers, awareness campaigns and a large-scale distribution of hygienic material, but also for triage stations, where potentially infected patients can be detected by a blood test and if necessary isolated.

It is also crucial that healthcare providers (doctors, nursing personnel) can protect themselves by using personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Ebola virus is transmitted by body fluids. It is therefore of vital importance to use fluid-resistant or impermeable PPE, consisting of a medical mask, an impermeable coverall and apron, two pairs of gloves, impermeable boots etc.

Availability of PPE is in itself however not sufficient; there is also a need for training in their correct use. It is suspected that the Spanish nurse Teresa Romero, who was infected some time ago by the Ebola virus, got contaminated when she touched her face with her gloves. Appropriate safety procedures must be observed, especially when putting on and taking off PPE.

In general, personal protective equipment placed on the European market must comply with the European Directive 89/686/CEE. The requirements of this directive are detailed in a number of European standards.

PPE must bear the CE marking. In addition, certain categories of PPE must be inspected by an independent body (‘notified body’). This applies to PPE of categories II and III, protecting respectively against moderate risks and mortal injuries or irreversible harm.

Some examples of these types of PPE are given below :

  • Hearing protectors for use in noisy workplaces
  • Foot and leg protectors for chainsaw operators
  • Fall protection equipment for work at height
  • Protective respiratory equipment against gases, hazardous vapours etc.

Personal protective equipment is essential, not only in the fight against Ebola, but in every workplace where workers are exposed to physical risks against which PPE can offer protection.