Airline passengers were startled recently to see a COVID-19 infectee removed from the aircraft by officials in hazmat suits.
The passenger, on a flight bound for Italy, had received a text from NHS Test and Trace minutes prior to departure informing him that he was infected.
It wasn't the first case of hazmat-wearing individuals boarding an aircraft.
In March 2020, Naomi Campbell was snapped wearing a hazmat suit at the airport and on the plane, while Emirates and Qatar Airways cabin crew are also wearing protective gear over their uniform, complete with goggles, gloves and mask in the case of the latter airline.
Hazmat suits or similar have also been spotted in supermarkets, and of course they have been associated with checks and COVID-19 tests.
Their popularity in recent months is such that China’s clothing manufacturer Ugly Duck stopped the production of its winter coats, instead commencing to manufacture thousands of single-use protective hazmat suits daily.
In July, a Canada-based company launched the BioVYZR via crowdfunding platform Indiegogo - the protective suit includes hospital-grade air-purifying technology and anti-fogging windows.
What is a hazmat suit anyway, and why are they used?
A hazmat suit, short for hazardous material suit, is a whole body garment designed to protect the wearer against dangerous materials or substances.
The United States Department of Homeland Security defines a hazmat suit as “an overall garment worn to protect people from hazardous materials or substances, including chemicals, biological agents, or radioactive materials.”
A hazmat suit is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is often used by firefighters, emergency medical crews, paramedics, researchers, personnel responding to toxic spills, specialists cleaning up contaminated facilities and workers in toxic environments.
People are wearing protective suits on planes - but should they?
There are no WHO recommendations for the general public to use protective clothing for potential COVID-19 exposure. Instead it states the following:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others.
- Avoid going to crowded places.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others.
Should protective suits be used when managing COVID-19 patients?
In its recommendations for the rational use of PPE, the WHO stated that coveralls (sometimes called Ebola PPE) are not required when managing COVID-19 patients. Head covers (hoods) that cover the head and neck, used in the ontext of filovirus disease outbreaks, are not required either.
The CDC recommends that healthcare personnel put on a clean isolation gown upon entry into the patient room or area. However, if coveralls are used as an alternative to gowns, the CDC also recommends that healthcare workers put on a clean garment before performing patient care, with a new coverall required for each patient.
In March 2020, Dupont expedited production and delivery of its Tyvek gowns and coveralls for healthcare workers, and additionally developed a limited run protective fabric specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic to meet growing demand.
Should protective suits be worn when testing for the coronavirus?
In its guidance on the appropriate use of testing for healthcare providers, the CDC recommends PPE that include a gown for baggers and swabbers. Specimen transporters need only a glove and facemask.
Similarly, gloves and facemask (if more than 6 feet from the person being tested) are required for the registrar and labeler responsible for registration, consent form and labelling the test kit.
In addition, all participants undergoing testing should wear a facemask or cloth face covering throughout the process, only removing it during swabbing.
The above article was sponsored by MedicalSystem Biotechnology Co.,Ltd.