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Personal protective equipment (PPE) provides health care workers with a barrier to prevent human contact with viruses like Ebola and potential transmission of the disease. However, PPE can also introduce an additional physiological burden from potentially increased heat stress. This study evaluated the human physiological and subjective responses to continuous light exercise within environmental conditions similar to those in West Africa while wearing 3 different, commonly used PPE ensembles (E1, E2, and E3).
Six healthy individuals were tested in an environmental chamber (32°C, 92% relative humidity) while walking (3 METs, 2.5 mph, 0% incline) on a treadmill for 60 minutes. All subjects wore medical scrubs and PPE items. E1 also had a face shield and fluid-resistant surgical gown; E2 additionally included goggles, coverall, and separate hood; and E3 also contained a highly impermeable coverall, separate hood, and surgical mask cover over the N95 respirator.
Heart rate and core temperature at the end of the exercise were significantly higher for E2 and E3 than for E1. Subjective perceptions of heat and exertion were significantly higher for E2 and E3 than for E1.
Heat stress and PPE training, as well as the implementation of a work-to-rest ratio that avoids dehydration and possible heat stress issues, are recommended. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:580–586)
Cooling devices (CDs) worn under personal protective equipment (PPE) can alleviate some of the heat stress faced by health care workers responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Six healthy, young individuals were tested while wearing 4 different CDs or no cooling (control) under PPE in an environmental chamber (32°C/92% relative humidity) while walking (3 METs, 2.5 mph, 0% grade) on a treadmill for 60 minutes. Exercise was preceded by a 15-minute stabilization period and a 15-minute donning period.
The control condition resulted in a significantly higher rectal temperature (Tre) at the end of the exercise than did all CD conditions (CD1, P=0.004; CD2, P=0.01; CD3, P=0.000; CD4, P=0.000) with CD1 and CD2 resulting in a higher Tre than CD3 and CD4 (P<0.05). The control condition resulted in a higher heart rate (HR) at the end of exercise than did the CD3 (P=0.01) and CD4 (P=0.009) conditions, whereas the HR of the CD1 and CD2 conditions was higher than that of the CD3 and CD4 conditions (P<0.05). Weight loss in the control condition was higher than in the CD3 (P=0.003) and CD4 (P=0.01) conditions. Significant differences in subjective measurements of thermal stress were found across conditions and time.
Use of CDs can be advantageous in decreasing the negative physiological and subjective responses to the heat stress encountered by health care workers wearing PPE in hot and humid environments. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:573–579)
Experience with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) ensembles by health care workers responding to the Ebola outbreak in the hot, humid conditions of West Africa has prompted reports of significant issues with heat stress that has resulted in shortened work periods.
A sweating thermal manikin was used to ascertain the time to achievement of a critical core temperature of 39°C while wearing 4 different PPE ensembles similar to those recommended by the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) at 2 different ambient conditions (32°C/92% relative humidity and 26°C/80% relative humidity) compared with a control ensemble.
PPE ensembles that utilized coveralls with moderate to high degrees of impermeability attained the critical core temperature in significantly shorter times than did other ensembles. Encapsulation of the head and neck region resulted in higher model-predicted subjective impressions of heat sensation.
To maximize work capacity and to protect health care workers in the challenging ambient conditions of West Africa, consideration should be given to adjustment of work and rest schedules, improvement of PPE (e.g., using less impermeable and more breathable fabrics that provide the same protection), and the possible use of cooling devices worn simultaneously with PPE. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:536–542)
Specification of appropriate personal protective equipment for respiratory protection against influenza is somewhat controversial. In a clinical environment, N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) are often recommended for respiratory protection against infectious aerosols. This study evaluates the ability of N95 FFRs to capture viable H1N1 influenza aerosols.
Five N95 FFR models were challenged with aerosolized viable H1N1 influenza and inert polystyrene latex particles at continuous flow rates of 85 and 170 liters per minute. Virus was assayed using Madin-Darby canine kidney cells to determine the median tissue culture infective dose (TCID50). Aerosols were generated using a Collison nebulizer containing H1N1 influenza virus at 1 × 108 TCID50/mL. To determine filtration efficiency, viable sampling was performed upstream and downstream of the FFR.
N95 FFRs filtered 0.8-μm particles of both H1N1 influenza and inert origins with more than 95% efficiency. With the exception of 1 model, no statistically significant difference in filtration performance was observed between influenza and inert particles of similar size. Although statistically significant differences were observed for 2 models when comparing the 2 flow rates, the differences have no significance to protection.
This study empirically demonstrates that a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved N95 FFR captures viable H1N1 influenza aerosols as well as or better than its N95 rating, suggesting that a properly fitted FFR reduces inhalation exposure to airborne influenza virus. This study also provides evidence that filtration efficiency is based primarily on particle size rather than the nature of the particle's origin.