Panel Recommends N95s for H1N1-Exposed Health Workers

The Institute of Medicine committee also recommended funding research to design and develop the next generation of respirators for health workers.

Speaking Sept. 3 to reporters after his latest H1N1 briefing, CDC's Dr. Thomas Frieden said his agency had just received the letter report from the Institute of Medicine's panel studying respiratory protection for health care workers against H1N1 infection. The panel made two recommendations, starting with this one: Health workers, including those in non-hospital settings, who are in close contact with individuals who have H1N1 or influenza-like illnesses "should use fit-tested N95 respirators or respirators that are demonstrably more effective," and the fit testing should adhere to OSHA's regulations. Second, increase research on influenza transmission and personal respiratory protection.

Significantly, the panel recommended as part of this second item that CDC centers, the National Institutes of Health, other federal agencies, and private institutions should fund research to design and develop the next generation of respirators for health workers "to enhance safety, comfort, and ability to perform work-related tasks."

Frieden's questioner asked this about the report: "As you well know, there's not a lot of them [N95s] in a lot of health care facilities, and maybe even only a week or two supply in many hospitals. And there's some in the strategic reserve, but given that there is a potential shortage of these if there were to be a very large outbreak of disease, how would you like health care workers to respond to this information and how do you think they should respond?"

"We have just received the Institute of Medicine report," Frieden answered. "We're studying it carefully. Their charge was specifically not to consider either economic or logistical concerns, such as supply. And as we look at guidance for health care facilities, we'll be looking at this carefully in the coming days to weeks."

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