WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New guidelines being developed for U.S. hospitals treating Ebola patients will be more stringent and will direct workers to make sure their skin and hair are fully covered, a top U.S. health official said Sunday.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke about the new guidelines being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I don’t want to officially comment on what is being developed, but pretty soon we are going to be seeing new guidelines that, at least I can tell you, they are going to be much more stringent,” Fauci said.
He said the old guidelines, which were modeled after protocols developed by the World Health Organization, called for workers to wear protective masks but “did have some exposure of the skin.”
“We want to make sure that that’s no longer the case,” he said. “That you have essentially everything covered.”
The issue of how well nurses and doctors are protected against the virus has become a flashpoint as the United States now handles its first cases of the disease that has already killed more than 4,500 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
The debate has only intensified in recent weeks after two nurses at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died there.
Critics have blamed lax safety protocols and training for nurses, saying more must be done to protect healthcare workers.
Last week, the CDC beefed up protective equipment standards in Dallas after the second nurse was diagnosed. The center is now working on updates to its general guidelines on protective equipment, Melissa Brower, a spokeswoman at the CDC, said in an email.
Fauci said the older guidelines were designed for dealing with Ebola in Africa, as opposed to the U.S. healthcare system where hospitals use invasive, life-saving equipment like dialysis machines. While Duncan was being treated in Dallas, the hospital had him on dialysis and a ventilator.
Fauci indicated the new guidelines will address the different settings between Africa and the United States.
“The exposure level is a bit different,” he said.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Marina Lopes in Washington; Editing by Jim Loney and Nick Zieminski