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Shortage of Protective Gear Leaves Healthcare Workers At-Risk

Here in America it is required that protective gear (like gloves, facemasks, protective eyewear, coveralls, shoe covers, protective aprons, etc.) is made 100% available to hospital and healthcare workers. Wearing protective gear and apparel is essential to protecting oneself against exposure to a number of different blood-borne pathogens (such as HIV and the Ebola virus, among others) and preventing the spread of these types of viruses and infections.  In a recent study that was published online August 26th in the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health, researchers from John Hopkins University were alarmed when they discovered exactly how prevalent the shortage of protective gear is in poorer nations like Afghanistan, Bolivia, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia.

After analyzing the data from 399 hospitals in the 13 low- and middle-income nations listed above, researchers from Johns Hopkins found that “none of the countries had 100 percent availability of all the protective items, which are standard in American hospitals.”

Protective Gear Shortage Statistics:

-- Protective eyewear was not always made available to staff in 71% of the hospitals

-- Sterilizing equipment was not always available in 36% of the hospitals

-- Sterile gloves weren’t always available in 25% of the hospitals

While the John Hopkins study was originally focused on looking at preventing the spread of HIV, their findings are also applicable to preventing the spread of the Ebola virus, which spreads through direct contact with the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person (just like how the HIV virus spreads). According to statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, the shortage of protective gear has lead to the Ebola Virus claiming the lives of an estimated 120 doctors and nurses who were working closely with Ebola patients without wearing the proper protective gear or using proper infection-control procedures. Researchers from John Hopkins want to call attention to the fact that this shortage of protective gear has been going on long before the current Ebola outbreak crisis started; yet still, as the statement from WHO pointed out, “in many cases, medical staff are at risk because no protective equipment is available -- not even gloves and face masks.” When looking into the data from hospitals in Sierra Leone and Liberia (where the Ebola Virus is still continuing to spread), researchers found that:

-- Protective eyewear was not made available to doctors and nurses in 70% of the hospitals in Sierra Leone and 44% of the hospitals in Liberia

-- Sterile gloves were not available to doctors and nurses in 30% of the hospitals in Sierra Leone and 37% of the hospitals in Liberia

Researchers like Dr. Adam Kushner, an associate in the department of international health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, hope that their study findings will help lead to something positive resulting from the devastating Ebola outbreak that is currently plaguing West Africa. Kushner hopes that “we can all learn from this new epidemic and be better prepared for the next one by remembering that inexpensive protective equipment can keep doctors and nurses safe from infection -- and better able to care for patients who need them. […] It is imperative that we make this a priority."



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