a health worker wears a medical mask and protective eyewear

NIOSH Page Makes Respirator Choice Easier

The hottest PPE category this year, respiratory protection, can be challenging to navigate. NIOSH’s site has always been a good information source about these products, and the new Respirator Trusted-Source Information Page is even better.

NIOSH, the federal agency that certifies protective respirators, has created a Respirator Trusted-Source Information Page that makes its highly useful online information about this PPE category even better. The page enables users to identify respirators that are NIOSH-approved, links to their manufacturers, and explains how to use the products. The H1N1 influenza pandemic has made respiratory protection the hottest PPE category this year, with millions of products ordered and manufacturers working at maximum capacity to produce as many as possible.

According to NIOSH, new information will be added to the page as it becomes available. Its content includes fact sheets, respirator myths, the science of respirators' function and performance, and information about respirators that are not approved by NIOSH.

The debate continues about whether U.S. health care workers who are exposed to patients possibly or certainly sick with H1N1 should wear N95 respirators while at work, and whether they are willing to wear them for long periods of time is in doubt. On Nov. 6, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology wrote to President Obama urging him to prevent OSHA from taking enforcement action against hospitals that do not require workers to wear N95 respirators if they are caring for suspected or confirmed H1N1 patients. The organizations cited two studies indicating surgical masks offer equivalent protection, and they noted N95 respirator supplies are being depleted, so health care facilities could face penalties if the OSHA guidance is not suspended.

In a Nov. 5 letter, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told state and local health officers that 35.6 million doses of H1N1 vaccine had been "allocated for ordering, with more coming every day," but because demand exceeds supply, it is "more important than ever" to focus on administering the vaccine to the priority groups already identified: caretakers for infants under six months of age; health care workers; children and adults with underlying health conditions such as asthma or diabetes; and people younger than 25.

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