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Gary Evans writes Hospital Infection Control & Prevention (HIC), Hospital Employee Health (HEH) and contributes to IRB Advisor (IRB). As senior writer at AHC, Evans has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and health care workers, including pandemic influenza, MERS and Ebola. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
With sincere apologies to the ghost of Winston Churchill, never in the field of infection prevention was so much purchased by so many to be worn by so few.
U.S. hospital storage shelves are brimming with personal protective equipment (PPE) in many facilities, while others scramble to stock up before an Ebola patient is sitting in their emergency department. Yet, unless things take a dramatic and unlikely turn for the worse, most of this gear will never be worn to protect health care workers from Ebola. Though all hospitals must prepare to diagnose and isolate an Ebola patient, very few will actually have to admit a patient infected in the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. Sporadic cases could continue to occur however, opening up the possibility that the next U.S. Ebola case seeks care in a hospital with a shorage of PPE gear.
Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered $2.7 million in PPE to increase the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) supplies to assist U.S. hospitals caring for Ebola patients. Products are being configured into 50 kits that can be rapidly delivered to hospitals. Each kit can provide the PPE needed by clinical teams to manage the care of one Ebola patient for up to five days. Purchases are based on PPE guidance for caring for Ebola patients that was issued by CDC on October 20. As product is delivered to SNS facilities, it is assembled into kits by SNS personnel. The kits can be rapidly delivered from the SNS as requested to those hospitals that receive suspected or confirmed Ebola cases but may need additional PPE supplies that otherwise are not immediately available. Although the number of kits is limited, they will help address short-term PPE needs.
Purchases include impermeable gowns, coveralls, and aprons; boot covers; gloves; face shields and hoods; N95 respirators; powered-air purifying respirator systems and ancillaries; and disinfecting wipes.
Since the issuance of the CDC guidance, there has been a sudden increase in demand for PPE. Across the United States, availability for these products varies by product type and model, requested quantity, manufacturer, distributor, and geographic region, the CDC stated. Hospitals should coordinate with their state public health departments if there is a need to request PPE supplies from CDC to care for an Ebola patient. The state health department will follow the established protocol for submitting this request to CDC.