The highly respected Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota just advised the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles,” including exhaled breath.
CIDRAP is warning that surgical facemasks do not prevent transmission of Ebola, and healthcare professionals (HCP) must immediately be outfitted with full-hooded protective gear and powered air-purifying respirators.
CIDRAP since 2001 has been a global leader in addressing public health preparedness regarding emerging infectious diseases and bio-security responses. CIDRAP’s opinion on Ebola virus is there are “No proven pre- or post-exposure treatment modalities;” “A high case-fatality rate;” and “Unclear modes of transmission.”
In April of 2014, CIDRAP published a commentary on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) that confirmed the disease “could be an aerosol-transmissible disease, especially in healthcare settings,” similar to the known aerosol transmission capability of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Although CIDRAP acknowledges that they were “first skeptical that Ebola virus could be an aerosol-transmissible disease,” they are “now persuaded by a review of experimental and epidemiologic data that this might be an important feature of disease transmission, particularly in healthcare settings.”
CDC’s published “Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with Known or Suspected Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals” states: “HCP should wear gloves, a gown, disposable shoe covers, and either a face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face or goggles, and respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a NIOSH certified fit-tested N95 filtering facepiece respirator.”
N95 filters look like surgical masks and are defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as “disposable respirator” with a workplace protection factor (WPF) of 10. A 3M “qualified” N95 respirators rated to block 95% of airborne particles with a size greater in diameter than 5 microns is can cost as little as $.65 each.
However, the US National Institutes of Health reported in 2005 that 50% of bio-aerosols were found to be less than 5 microns in diameter. The NIH calculated that after correcting for dead space and lung deposition, “N95 filtering facepiece respirators seem inadequate against microorganisms.”
CIDRAP warns in regards to N95 respirators, “Healthcare workers have experienced very high rates of morbidity and mortality in the past and current Ebola virus outbreaks. A facemask, or surgical mask, offers no or very minimal protection from infectious aerosol particles.”
CIDRAP is now advising the CDC and WHO that proper “personal protective equipment (PPE) ensures that healthcare workers remain healthy throughout an outbreak.” Based on scientific research, CIDRAP recommends the minimum protection for healthcare professionals in high-risk settings is a “powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) with a hood or helmet” that will filter 99.97% of all particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter.
But the minimum Internet-advertised price for a “qualified” 3M Veraflo respirator is $427.13, compared to about $.65 for an N95 facemask. With Liberia’s per capita GDP only $454 last year and the economy in shambles, there is no way the country’s healthcare professionals can afford to acquire the appropriate protective respirators.
Based on CIDRAP’s research and the fact that Ebola cases are projected to skyrocket, it seems irresponsible that the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets are downplaying the risks of Ebola transmission.
Less than two weeks ago, the NYT’s “Well” column responded to a reader’s question: “Can I get Ebola from public transportation?” with “Implying that Ebola is caught as easily as flu or colds would be untrue and inflammatory.” The “Well” column, again on October 13th, responded to another question: “I’m flying soon. What is the risk of contracting Ebola on a flight?” with “Top Ebola experts have said they would not expect to be infected even if they were sitting next to another passenger with Ebola – unless that passenger actually vomited or bled on them.”
As I pointed out last week at Breitbart News, the Black Death that killed a third of all people in Europe and the Middle East in the three years from 1337 to 1340 appears to have been a “hemorrhagic fever” similar to Ebola. CIDRAP’s warning that Ebola can be spread by “infectious aerosol particles,” such as breathing, means the pandemic should be expected to continue to accelerate.