Groups Ask Obama to Rethink N95 Issue


To read a special commentary from Mark E. Rupp, MD, president of SHEA, CLICK HERE.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) announced today that the organization, along with SHEA and the IDSA, have issued a letter to President Obama expressing concern over the current federal guidance surrounding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare workers in treating suspected or confirmed cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza.

According to APIC’s statement issued today, the letter was precipitated by a re-evaluation of a study performed in China (MacIntyre, et al.) presented last week in which no significant differences were observed among healthcare workers wearing surgical masks or N95 respirators. Of note, the MacIntyre study was initially reported to show a significant benefit associated with the use of N95 respirators. This preliminary report was cited in the Institute of Medicine’s Sept. 3, 2009 Letter Report, which recommended the routine use of N95 respirators.

APIC reports that in its letter, it urged Obama and his administration to modify the guidance to reflect the position best supported by the available science – which is first-line use of surgical masks for routine H1N1 patient care. The letter also requests an immediate moratorium on OSHA’s requirement for healthcare facilities related to the use of N95 respirators in relation to H1N1 influenza. It was pointed out that permitting OSHA to continue to enforce a policy not grounded in science will force healthcare facilities to waste time and resources while working to comply with this requirement, rather than to enact measures that will significantly benefit patient care and healthcare worker safety during this national emergency.

Additionally, the communiqué expresses concern over the existing shortage of respirators, potentially precluding their use in situations where they are most needed. The letter detailed the advantages of surgical masks by providing appropriate protection for all routine patient encounters, and concludes by offering APIC's collective support in responding to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

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