What is PPE?

Coronavirus has resulted in a shortage of medical masks, gowns and gloves

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Health care workers are at the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic battling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, however, they’re facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, PPE, to keep them safe from infectious materials.

N95 respiration masks at a laboratory of 3M, that has been contracted by the U.S. government to produce extra marks in response to the country's novel coronavirus outbreak, in Maplewood, Minnesota. (REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi - RC2RDF9ZWBML) 

PPE refers to protective garments and medical items such as facemasks, gloves, goggles and face shields for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in hospitals, clinical labs and doctors' offices. Protective clothing is more vital than ever with the continued spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, which can be contracted through person-to-person contact or from droplets transferred when someone coughs or sneezes.

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When used properly, these protective items can shield from viral and bacterial infections by limiting contact with someone's skin, mouth, nose or eyes. PPE may also protect individuals who are at high risk for contracting infections through a surgical procedure, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“When used properly and with other infection control practices such as hand-washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes, it minimizes the spread of infection from one person to another,” 

- Food and Drug Administration

All PPE intended to be used in a medical facility must meet the FDA’s regulations for N95 respirators, medical gloves and gowns.

“When used properly and with other infection control practices such as hand-washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes, it minimizes the spread of infection from one person to another,” FDA says on its website.

What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those wearing PPE wash their hands before and after taking the equipment off.

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Here are some of the most important PPE worn by healthcare personal when caring for patients infected with the coronavirus.

Gowns

Surgical gowns are crucial when treating patients with the highly contagious COVID-19 virus. They protect from liquids and the transferring of particles and microorganisms. They’re made to cover a health care worker’s entire body, and the CDC recommends using surgical gowns when treating patients with coronavirus.

Masks

N95 respirator masks is a tight-fitting disposable face mask, that, if worn correctly, can filter air before it is inhaled. These respirators block out at least 95 percent of articles in the air that are emitted through sneezes and coughs. These masks are strictly recommended for medical personal and not the public, according to the CDC.

Gloves

Gloves are necessary to care for patients with coronavirus, according to the CDC. 

Eye protection

Disposable face shields, safety glasses that cover the sides of a healthcare worker’s eyes are recommended by the CDC to protect when treating an infectious patient. 

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