You’ve likely heard the term PPE – otherwise known as Personal Protective Equipment – talked about a lot in relation to COVID-19. PPE refers to protective clothing and other items, such as:
• Face masks (surgical masks, N95 respirators)
• Face shields
• Hair covers
• Other equipment designed to protect the wearer’s body from injury/infection
Because frontline workers, such as nurses and physicians, come into extremely close contact with patients who are ill, and because COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus, these frontline workers need this protective equipment to not only protect themselves from developing the virus, but to also stop it from being passed onto others – such as co-workers, other patients they see, as well as from bringing it home to their loved ones. Along with hospitals and doctor’s offices, PPE is also used in clinical labs. There are also certain procedures in which there is a greater need for PPE to be used, such as intubation (in which a tube is inserted through the patient’s mouth and into their airway), as well as nebulizer treatments (in which medicated mist is delivered to the patients lungs via a machine.) These particular procedures can cause a larger amount of the virus to be dispersed into the air.
When wearing Personal Protective Equipment, this acts as a barrier between the person and the illness-causing viruses or bacteria. Because the easiest way for germs to enter your body is via the eyes, nose, and mouth (as well as when your hands touch these areas), PPE is designed to cover these areas of the face. There are also different types of Personal Protective Equipment that come with different qualities and capabilities, and there are very high standards for the way in which they are made. For example, they should be fluid resistant and leak protective, have a filtering capacity, as well as be resistant to tears and snags. When used properly with other infection control measures that are put in place (such as covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer), PPE will help minimize the spread of infection from person to person. Using PPE effectively also means proper removal and disposal, which also prevents both the wearer and other individuals from infection.
One of the most common questions asked by the general public is if they, too, should be wearing any type of Personal Protective Equipment, such as masks or gloves – and the answer is yes. In British Columbia, the wearing of certain types of PPE, such as face masks, is mandatory in indoor public places – such as shopping malls, grocery stores, schools, libraries, as well as on public transit. By continuing to follow all public health orders and restrictions, you not only keep yourself and your loved ones protected, but also reduce the risk of spread of the virus in your community.