During an influenza pandemic, healthcare workers will be on the front lines delivering care to patients and preventing further spread of the disease. Protecting the more than 13 million healthcare workers in the United States from illness or from infecting their families or the patients in their care is critical to limiting morbidity and mortality and preventing progression of a pandemic. The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a study on the personal protective equipment (PPE)1 (respirators, gloves, gowns, eye protection, and other equipment) needed by healthcare workers in the event of an influenza pandemic.
The IOM committee determined that there is an urgent need to address the lack of preparedness regarding effective PPE for use in an influenza pandemic. Three critical areas were identified that require expeditious research and policy action: (1) Influenza transmission research should become an immediate and short-term research priority so that effective prevention and control strategies can be developed and refined. The current paucity of knowledge significantly hinders prevention efforts. (2) Employer and employee commitment to worker safety and appropriate use of PPE should be strengthened. Healthcare facilities should establish and promote a culture of safety. (3) An integrated effort is needed to understand the PPE requirements of the worker and to develop