The respiratory protective equipment necessary to protect health care workers from the novel swineorigin influenza A (H1N1) virus is not known. The knowledge gap created by this unanswered question has caused substantial debate and controversy on a global scale, leading public health organizations to feel pressured into issuing decisive recommendations despite a lack of supportive data. Changes in clinical practice caused by public health guidance during such high-profile events can be expected to establish a new standard of care. Also possible is an unforeseen gradual transition to widespread N95 respirator use, driven by public health pressures instead of science, for all outbreaks of influenza or influenza-like illness. Therefore, public health organizations and other influential institutions should take care to avoid making changes to established practice standards, if possible, unless these changes are bolstered by sound scientific evidence. Until definitive comparative effectiveness clinical trials are conducted, the answer to this question will continue to remain elusive. In the meantime, relying on ethical principles that have been substantiated over time may help guide public health and clinical decisions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health