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Redesign PPE to reduce contamination risks, researchers suggest

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Cleveland – Health care workers frequently contaminate their skin and clothing when removing gloves or gowns, and researchers from the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center are recommending additional education and redesigned personal protective equipment.

Researchers conducted a six-month study with fluorescent lotion and a harmless virus representing pathogens on gowns and gloves. During a series of simulations in which the PPE was removed, researchers found the lotion or virus transferred to the skin or clothing about half the time. Although lapses in doffing technique resulted in greater contamination (70 percent), 30 percent of employees who followed proper protocols also were contaminated.

Following an intervention to reduce transfers to skin and clothing, contamination still occurred nearly 20 percent of the time. However, contamination dropped to about 7 percent when a trained coach monitored each step of the removal process – a recommendation in cases when Ebola is suspected or confirmed. To further reduce pathogen transfer risk, the researchers recommended disinfecting PPE before removal and redesigning PPE to make it easier to remove while minimizing self-contamination.

The study was published online Oct. 12 in JAMA Internal Medicine.