Could CDC guideline updates simplify flu prevention?

By: May 5th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

On Monday, May 3,  the CDC released a Q&A regarding their intent to update  Interim Guidance on Infection Control Measures for 2009 H1N1 Influenza in Healthcare Settings.

According to the CDC, the interim guidelines were only intended to serve as best-practices for the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and as new information has come to light, the guidelines are being reevaluated.

“We now have information about the number of cases of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by 2009 H1N1, which can be compared to historical seasonal influenza data,” the Q&A states. “The current circumstances justify an update of the recommendations.”

Perhaps most importantly this includes protection for healthcare personnel (cue the collective sigh of relief from safety officers and infection preventionists across the country). Although the CDC isn’t revealing any potential changes outright, this could potentially mark a change in the much debated guideline, which called for N95 respirators for protection against H1N1, even though seasonal influenza guidelines simply required surgical masks. As many of you know OSHA later enforced the CDC guidelines, and some facilities were even cited and fined for non-compliance.

A draft of the updated guidelines will also be published in the Federal Register and open for comments to those who are interested. Comments will be evaluated by the CDC before final publication of the guidelines.

What are your thoughts on updated guidelines? Do you think the CDC will change some of its interim guidelines, particular the section involving N95 respirators? Do you plan to comment on the updated draft? Let us know in the comments section below.


By Clyde Darrah on May 5th, 2010 at 11:29 am

I think we are getting carried away with having an N95 mask required when a surgical mask has been the norm for years with seasonal Influenza. Also, the surgical mask is much more comfortable to wear; therefore one might see more compliance as a result.

By Gail Steele on May 5th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Extensive research during the 2009 – 2010 flu season has sown that surgical masks were successful in preventing transmission – the requirement for N 95s needs to be discontinued.

By Beth Bond on May 5th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

The World Health Organization’s recommendations for use of a surgical mask were adequate with the use of an N-95 or higher for aerosol generating procedures. We did not see any increased transmission with the use of this PPE in this manner.

By Cathy Britt on May 5th, 2010 at 8:20 pm

As an ICP for 2 hospitals, I was in and out of various patient units, emergency departments and provider clinics during the 2009 Pandemic. I observed hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and wore a surgical mask. My husband and two children (one in high school and one in college) were diligent with cleaning hands and trying to stay away from obviously sick people. None of us contracted flu of any kind. We were vaccinated for seasonal flu during the H1N1 outbreak and received H1N1 vaccine after the outbreak had subsided. I do not believe N-95 masks are needed for Flu protection.

By Diane Elizabeth on May 6th, 2010 at 7:50 am

Using N95 respirators for H1N1 influenza is a waste of resources and would not be an evidence based or a best practice, given what we know about the H1N1 influenza.

By Jen Hadley on May 7th, 2010 at 9:50 am

There is plenty ofdata to support that a surgical mask is more than enough coverage to prevent spread of H1N1 influenza. I really feel agencies such as OSHA need to take into account that we are certified experienced professionals that understand the importance of these precautions and take them very seriously. Rather than trying to fine facilites for such ridiculous things, they should maybe work cohesively with us to do the best things for our patients.

By J. Gunnell on July 14th, 2010 at 11:37 am

What about the recommended distance. Will it remain 6 feet or will it also be changed to the usual 3 feet.

By David LaHoda on July 21st, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Whether the distance is three feet or six feet is unclear according to the draft guidelines. General guidance given includes:

“Transmission via large-particle droplets requires close contact between source and recipient persons, because droplets
generally travel only short distances (approximately 6 feet or less) through the air.”

Also under droplet precautions:

“HCP should don a facemask when entering the room of a patient with suspected or confirmed influenza. Remove the facemask when leaving the patient’s room, dispose of the facemask in a waste container, and perform hand hygiene.”


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