NIOSHBy John Howard, MD; Margaret Kitt, MD; Maryann D’Alessandro, PhD; Lisa Delaney, MS, CIH; Chad Dowell MS, CIH.

On November 3, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academies convened a workshop of distinguished representatives from the public and private sectors. The participants were asked to suggest priorities for research that will “provide public health officials, healthcare providers, and the general public with the most up-to-date information about transmission, health risks, and measures that should be taken to prevent spread of [Ebola virus disease] in the U.S.” NIOSH was pleased to contribute to this dialogue, specifically by addressing issues critical for protecting heath care workers from work-related infection.

Researchers and practitioners have decades of experience related to the use of sampling, analysis, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other traditional measures for assessing exposures and minimizing the risks of occupational illness and injury in the industrial setting. That knowledge underpins standard industrial hygiene practices in factories, mines, and construction sites. Strategic research is vital for building a comparably robust base of evidence for reducing occupational risks from infectious diseases in the complex health care setting. By stimulating the knowledge needed to better meet the challenges of Ebola today, we also lay a stronger foundation for anticipating tomorrow’s potential threats from other novel infectious diseases in our 21st Century world of international commerce and rapid air travel.

NIOSH’s recommendations on priorities for generating new knowledge to protect workers from Ebola were summarized in a plenary presentation by NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. The recommendations address priorities in two general areas: PPE and biological behavior of the Ebola virus.

In the category of research on PPE, NIOSH suggests five questions for priority attention:

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  • John Howard, MD, is the NIOSH Director.
  • Margaret Kitt, MD, is the NIOSH Deputy Director.
  • Maryann D’Alessandro, PhD, is the Director of the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory.
  • CDR Lisa Delaney, MS, CIH, is Associate Director for the NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response.
  • Chad Dowell MS, CIH, is an Industrial Hygienist with the NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response Office.