Excessive health precautions unhelpful in fighting Ebola

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Ebola is transmitted through contact with infected patients' secretions, making complete respiratory protection fruitless and such efforts potentially hindering treatment.

Excessive health precautions hinder health-care workers' ability to combat Ebola
Excessive health precautions hinder health-care workers' ability to combat Ebola

HealthDay News -- Disproportionate precautions, including complete respiratory protection, are unnecessary in addressing Ebola, according to a letter published in The Lancet.

After investigating potential use of excessive precautions in response to Ebola, Jose M. Martin-Moreno, MD, PhD, DrPH, of the University of Valencia in Spain, and colleagues concluded that because transmission of the disease is rarely via an airborne route, there is little need for complete respiratory protection, and may in fact, hinder health-care workers' ability to fight the disease.

“Excessive precautions could offer reassurance to those responding to Ebola, yet complete respiratory protection is expensive, uncomfortable, and unaffordable for countries that are the most affected,” wrote the researchers.

These precautions may signal that the only defense is individual protective equipment, and may contribute to unnecessary community panic.

Precautionary measures that protect health-care clinicians from direct contact, such as gloves and waterproof smocks, protective eyewear, and masks, are sufficient in managing most patients. Exceptional precautions, such as pressurized suits with oxygen tanks, should be used for interventions that generate aerosols and specific situations such as those involving massive hemorrhage.

“In control of infectious diseases, more is not necessarily better and, very often, the simplest answer is the best," concluded the researchers.


  1. Martin-Moreno J et al. The Lancet. 2014; doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61343-X
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