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New CDC flu guidelines unmask N95s
'The current circumstances justify an update'
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – which erred on the side of caution during the H1N1 influenza A pandemic – now concedes surgical masks are sufficient to protect health care workers. The widespread availability of vaccine made the decision to drop the recommendation for N95 respirator use a no-brainer in new flu guidelines. On the other hand, those who thought the CDC would endorse mandatory flu vaccination of health care workers will be disappointed. Always cautious on regulatory matters, the agency seems content to let individual states fight that battle and see which side is left standing. The CDC posted the following statement on the flu new guidelines:
"When the interim infection control guidance for 2009 H1N1 was posted, substantial uncertainties existed regarding the severity of disease and health impact of the novel H1N1 influenza strain, a high proportion of the population was susceptible to the new virus, and the vaccine was not available. Circumstances have changed significantly since then. First, a safe and effective vaccine has become widely available. Second, we now have information about the number of cases of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by 2009 H1N1, which can be compared to historical seasonal influenza data. The current circumstances justify an update of the recommendations.