Written by Clay Smith
Reusing personal protective equipment (PPE) risks contamination for healthcare workers and should be eliminated as much as possible. See image of contamination below.
Why does this matter?
According to the WHO, over 115,000 healthcare workers have died as a result of COVID-19. When PPE became scarce, we had to reuse PPE, such as N-95 masks. The CDC guidance was to follow local institutional protocols. Does reusing PPE still offer protection from contamination?
Um, that’s kind of gross…
This was a study of 28 acute care clinicians during 5 simulations in which the outside of an N-95 mask was “contaminated” with an invisible fluorescent gel, similar to what would occur during an encounter with an infected patient. Participants donned and doffed PPE and were assessed for cross contamination. Researchers took meticulous care to clean and ensure no fluorescent contamination occurred accidentally between participants and between the 5 simulated encounters. None of the participants were able to don and doff without contamination from the “dirty” N-95 mask. Some doffed the contaminated mask with no contamination once or twice successfully, but most did not. Contamination was heaviest on the head and neck, which is kind of unsettling.
Reuse of Personal Protective Equipment: Results of a Human Factors Study Using Fluorescence to Identify Self-Contamination During Donning and Doffing. J Emerg Med. 2022 Mar;62(3):337-341. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2021.12.010. Epub 2022 Feb 4.