What gear is needed to protect health care workers from Ebola?
Impervious gowns or suits like those used by haz-mat crews?
Health officials in Saskatchewan say front line workers have the proper, and recommended, gear available in the event they must work with a patient infected with Ebola or suspected of having Ebola. Nurses, however, are pressing for more.
The recommended gear includes an impervious gown, goggles, mask, head covering, gloves and booties.
"Wearing an impervious gown is similar to the surgical gowns and scrubs we always use," Dr. Johnmark Opondo, the deputy medical health officer for the Saskatoon Heath Region, said last week when he explained that the region was prepared to handle Ebola. "So health care workers know how to use it. But we will review this department by department."
The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, SUN, however, believes the gowns have vulnerable points and do not provide adequate protection around the head and neck. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids such as vomit, blood and feces.
"The equipment can't just be standard equipment," Tracy Zambory, the president of SUN, told CBC News.
Zambory said equipment that covers the full body, similar to haz-mat suits, would be better.
"The equipment must be the highest level of personal protecting equipment available," she said.
However, Dr. Bruce Reeder, an epidemiologist from Saskatchewan working in Liberia, told CBC News that a hazmat suit, which uses a respirator, is not necessary because the Ebola virus is not airborne.
"It is by body fluids that this is transmitted," Reeder told CBC News. "So that type of protection has resulted in quite a good track record for MSF [the humanitarian aid group Médecins Sans Frontières] in protecting its workers and it's that type that would be needed at home."
Zambory says nurses plan to continue pressing for the best possible equipment.
Health officials say they will focus on the proper wearing and removal of the protective gear they are planning to use, adding a simulation test of their Ebola plan will take place at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, later this week.
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