Rational usage of PPE components to face Covid-19

Rational usage of PPE components to face Covid-19

PPEs used in different areas in a hospital and their rational usages are given by Jeyaraman Anandha Kumar in this article.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS. The outbreak of coronavirus disease (now named Covid-19) was initially noticed in mid-December 2019, has spread to more than 185 countries worldwide. The causative agent for Covid-19 earlier termed provisionally as novel Coronavirus has been officially named as SARS-CoV-2.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical information on appropriate available essential medical devices which are indispensable for treatment centres, community-based units and other preventive activities, in affected and neighbouring countries.There is clear evidence of human-to-human transmission mainly through respiratory droplets that get generated when people cough, sneeze, or exhale. It is also transmitted by touching, by direct touch and through contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. The people most at risk of Covid-19 infection are those who are in close contact with a suspect/confirmed Covid-19 patient or who care for such patients. This article discuss about the rational usage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Personal protective equipment
PPE is most important in preventing transmission of the Ebola virus not only in treatment centres but also various activities, e.g. cleaning, waste management and safe burials, and community care related to the outbreak. PPEs are protective gears designed to safeguard the health of workers by minimising the exposure to a biological agent.

PPE is equipment worn to minimise exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.

Types of PPEs:

  • Gloves: Protects your hands from microbes and minimises the possible spreading of microbes.
  • Masks: Cover your mouth and nasal area. Some masks have a see-through plastic piece, which also covers your eyes (shield). A special respiratory mask (respirator) forms a tight seal around your nose and mouth. It can be useful to minimise the inhalation of smaller microbes, such as tuberculosis bacteria.
  • Eye protection: This includes face shields as well as goggles. They can protect the mucous membranes of your eyes from bodily fluids. If the fluids make contact with the eyes, microbes within the fluid can enter the body through the mucous membranes.
  • Clothing: Includes gowns, aprons, head covering, and shoe covers.
  • Selection of appropriate PPE
    It is important to consider the following factors which are influencing the selection of PPE:

  • Type of anticipated exposure: Such as from touch or surfaces, splashes or sprays, or large volumes of bodily fluids, which may seep through the clothing. PPE selection (and combinations of PPE), is determined by the category of isolation of the patient being treated.
  • Durability and appropriateness of the PPE for task: This will affect, for example, whether a gown or apron is selected. If a gown is required, the type of gown is also important. Does it need to be fluid resistant, fluid proof, both or neither.
  • Fitting: PPE must fit the individual user (form a proper seal). For example; if a glove is too large / too small than the person’s hand, it will compromise the level of protection while also affecting the dexterity of the health care provider.

  • Components of PPE
    Components of PPE are goggles, face-shield, mask, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), head cover and shoe cover.

    Face shield and goggles: Contamination of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth is likely in a scenario of droplets generated by cough, sneeze of an infected person or during aerosol generating procedures carried out in a clinical setting. Inadvertently touching the eyes/nose/mouth with a contaminated hand is another likely scenario. Hence protection of the mucous membranes of the eyes/nose/mouth by using face shields/goggles is an integral part of standard and contact precautions. The flexible frame of goggles should provide good seal with the skin of the face, covering the eyes and the surrounding areas and even accommodating for prescription glasses.

    Masks: Respiratory viruses that includes Coronaviruses target mainly the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Hence protecting the airway from the particulate matter generated by droplets / aerosols prevents human infection. Contamination of mucous membranes of the mouth and nose by infective droplets or through a contaminated hand also allows the virus to enter the host. Hence the droplet precautions/airborne precautions using masks are crucial while dealing with a suspect or confirmed case of Covid-19/performing aerosol generating procedures.

    Masks are of different types. The type of mask to be used is related to particular risk profile of the category of personnel and his/her work.

    There are two types of masks which are recommended for various categories of personnel working in hospital or community settings, depending upon the work environment:

  • Triple layer medical mask: A triple layer medical mask is a disposable mask, fluid-resistant, provide protection to the wearer from droplets of infectious material emitted during coughing/sneezing/talking.
  • N-95 respirator mask: An N95 respirator mask is a respiratory protective device with high filtration efficiency to airborne particles. To provide the requisite air seal to the wearer, such masks are designed to achieve a very close facial fit.Such mask should have high fluid resistance, good breathability (preferably with an expiratory valve), clearly identifiable internal and external faces, duckbill/cup-shaped structured design that does not collapse against the mouth.If correctly worn, the filtration capacity of these masks exceeds those of triple layer medical masks. Since these provide a much tighter air seal than triple layer medical masks, they are designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne particles.
  • Gloves: When a person touches an object/surface contaminated by Covid-19 infected person, and then touches his own eyes, nose, or mouth, he may get exposed to the virus. Although this is not thought to be a predominant mode of transmission, care should be exercised while handling objects/surface potentially contaminated by suspect/confirmed cases of Covid-19. Nitrile gloves are preferred over latex gloves because they resist chemicals, including certain disinfectants such as chlorine. There is a high rate of allergies to latex and contact allergic dermatitis among health workers. However, if nitrile gloves are not available, latex gloves can be used. Non-powdered gloves are preferred to powdered gloves.

    Coverall/gowns: Coverall/gowns are designed to protect torso of healthcare providers from exposure to virus. Although coveralls typically provide 360-degree protection because they are designed to cover the whole body, including back and lower legs and sometimes head and feet as well, the design of medical/isolation gowns do not provide continuous whole-body protection (e.g., possible openings in the back, coverage to the mid-calf only).By using appropriate protective clothing, it is possible to create a barrier to eliminate or reduce contact and droplet exposure, both known to transmit Covid-19, thus protecting healthcare workers working in close proximity (within 1 meter) of suspect/confirmed Covid-19 cases or their secretions.

    Coveralls and gowns are deemed equally acceptable as there is a lack of comparative evidence to show whether one is more effective than the other in reducing transmission to health workers. Gowns are considerably easier to put on and for removal. An apron can also be worn over the gown for the entire time the health worker is in the treatment area. Coveralls/gowns have stringent standards that extend from preventing exposure to biologically contaminated solid particles to protecting from chemical hazards.

    Shoe covers: Shoe covers should be made up of impermeable fabric to be used over shoes to facilitate personal protection and decontamination.

    Head covers: Coveralls usually cover the head. Those using gowns, should use a head cover that covers the head and neck while providing clinical care for patients. Hair and hair extensions should fit inside the head cover.

    Rational use of PPE
    PPEs are to be used based on the risk profile of the health care worker. PPEs used in different areas in a hospital and their rational usages are given below.

    Entry points:

     

    S.
    No.

    Areas

    Activity

    Recommended

    PPE

    1

    Health
    desk

    Provide information to travellers

    l  Triple layer medical masks

    l  Gloves

    2

    Immigration
    counters, customs and

    airport security

    Provide services to the passengers

    l  Triple layer medical masks

    l  Gloves

    3

    Temperature
    recording station

    Record temperature with hand held thermal recorder

    l 
    Triple layer
    medical mask

    l  Gloves

    4

    Holding
    area/
    isolation facility

     

    Interview and clinical examination
    by
    doctors/nurses

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    5

    Isolation
    facility

    Clinical management (doctors, nurses)

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    Attending to severely ill passenger

    Full complement of PPE

    5

    Sanitary staff

    Cleaning frequently touched surfaces/floor/ cleaning linen

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    6

    Administrative
    staff

    Providing administrative support

    No PPE

          

         Hospital
    areas

    S.
    No

    Area

    Activity

    Recommended

    PPE

    1

    Triage area

    l  Triaging patients

    l  Provide triple layer mask to patient

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    2

    Screening area help desk/registration

    counter

    Provide information to patients

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    3

    Temperature
    recording station

    Record temperature with

    hand held thermal recorder

    l  N95 mask

    l  Gloves

    4

    Holding
    area/ waiting area

    Nurses/paramedic interacting with patients

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    5

    Doctors
    chamber

    Clinical management (doctors, nurses)

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    6

    Sanitary staff

    Cleaning frequently touched surfaces/floor/ cleaning linen

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    7

    Visitors
    accompanying young children and elderl
    y

    Support in navigating various service areas

    Triple layer medical masks

     

         In-patient
    services:

    S.
    No.

    Area

    Activity

    Recommended PPE

    1

    Individual
    isolation rooms/ cohorted
    isolation rooms

    Clinical
    management

    l 
    N95 masks

    l 
    Gloves

    2

    ICU/ Critical

    care

    Critical care

    management

    Full complement of

    PPE

    3

    ICU /critical care

    Dead body packing

    Full complement of PPE

    4

    ICU/ Critical care

    Dead
    body transport to mortuary

    l 
    Triple Layer
    medical mask
    s

    l 
    Gloves

    5

    Sanitation

    Cleaning
    frequently touched surfaces/ floor/ changing

    linen

    l 
    N95 masks

    l 
    Gloves

    6

    Other Non-Covid

    treatment
    areas of hospital

    Attending
    to infectious and non-infectious patients

    PPE
    as per hospital infection
    prevention
    control practices

    7

    Caretaker accompanying the admitted patient

    Taking
    care of the admitted patient

    Triple
    layer medical mask
    s

     

         Ambulance services:

    S.
    No.

    Area

    Activity

    Recommended PPE

    1

    Ambulance transfer
    to
    designated hospital

    Transporting patients not on

    any assisted ventilation

    l  N95 masks

    l  Gloves

    Management of SARI patient while transporting

    Full complement of PPE

    Driving the ambulance

    l 
    Triple layer
    medical mask

    l 
    Gloves

     

         Ancillary services:

    S. No.

    Area

    Activity

    Recommended

    PPE

    1.

    Laboratory

    Sample collection and transportation

    Full complement of PPE

    Sample testing

    Full complement of PPE

    2

    Mortuary

    Dead
    body handling

    l  N95 mask

    l  Gloves

    While performing autopsy

    Full complement of PPE

    3

    Sanitation

    Cleaning frequently touched surfaces/floor/ cleaning linen in Covid treatment areas

    l  N95 mask

    l  Gloves

    4

    Laundry

    Handling
    linen of Covid patients

    l  N95 mask

    l  Gloves

    5

    Other
    supportive services

    Administrative financial engineering
    security, etc.

    No PPE

     

    Conclusions
    PPE is not consistently employed as per medical directives. Reasons given for non-use included non availability, judgment of non necessity or technical difficulties. There are important public health implications of non compliance. In epidemics of highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola or SARS, healthcare workers are at much greater risk of infection than the general population, due to their contact with patients’ contaminated body fluids. Contact precautions by means of PPE can reduce the risk. It is clear now which type of PPE protects best, and the rational usage of PPE reduce the risk of pandemic diseases.

    References

  • https://www.who.int/medical_devices/meddev_ppe/en/
  • https://www.health.state.mn.us/facilities/patientsafety/infectioncontrol/ppe/comp/index.html
  • https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/personalprotectiveequipment/
  • https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/ppe.htm
  • https://www.physio-pedia.com/Personal_Protective_Equipment_(PPE)
  • Footnote:
    Jeyaraman Anandha Kumar is M.Tech. (Text), M.B.A. (Apparel Mgt), DIM, PGDIM, PGDIB, MISTE MIE (Ph.D.). He is Lecturer at Department of Textile Processing, GRG Polytechnic College, Coimbatore-641107, Tamil Nadu. He can be contacted on Mob: 09894195264 or Email: anna_781@rediffmail.com

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