WHO Issues TB Prevention Guidelines

June 1, 2000

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND-The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a new document, "Guidelines for the Prevention of Tuberculosis in Healthcare Facilities in Resource-limited Settings." WHO reports Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the world's leading cause of death among adults and nearly 95% of tuberculosis (TB) infections occur in resource-limited settings. With the proposal of Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course Chemotherapy (DOTS), WHO hopes to cure almost all cases of TB. As its name describes, DOTS is the administration of chemotherapy to TB patients by healthcare workers. The implementation of DOTS places healthcare workers at risk of becoming infected themselves so WHO established the following guidelines to eliminate patient-to-healthcare worker and patient-to-patient transmission of the disease.

Most of the guidelines are inexpensive control strategies geared towards under-developed countries with limited resources. Three types of infection control, for district and referral levels, are addressed: administrative, environmental, and personal respiratory protection. WHO recommends reducing the potential exposure to TB by introducing administrative control measures to prevent the generation of infectious droplet nuclei. Measures include patient education, healthcare worker training, developing an Infection Control Plan, and reducing exposure in the laboratory. Second, WHO suggests environmental control methods such as maximizing natural ventilation and using HEPA filtration to reduce the concentration of droplet nuclei in the air in high-risk areas. The third proposal is to prevent healthcare workers from inhaling infectious droplets using personal respiratory protection equipment such as surgical masks and respirators.

Visit WHO's website, www.who.int/, for more information.