Visor Caused Ebola Nurse Infection

Using a visor with coveralls designed for use with goggles is the most probable cause of British nurse Pauline Cafferkey's Ebola infection.

Nurse Cafferkey, who has now made a full recovery from the infection, was working as a volunteer at an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) operated by Save the Children in Sierra Leone when she became infected with the virus.

An independent investigation lead by a senior official from Public Health England into how the nurse was exposed to Ebola concluded that while it is impossible to be 100% certain how she caught the virus, the use of an incompatible visor is the most likely cause.

At the time of the incident there were differences in the protocols and personal protective equipment (PPE) that volunteers were trained on in the UK and those used in treatment facilities in Sierra Leone where the nurse worked. This had potential for confusion in a situation where any mistakes could have serious consequences.

Cafferkey had been trained to use a visor both prior to leaving the UK and on arrival in Sierra Leone. However, the Save the Children ETC she was assigned to used goggles with their coverall suits. The nurse found that she was not able use their goggles "because she could not get them to fit properly" according to the investigation.

The findings highlight that while both visors and goggles are equally safe, there are detail but important differences between the coveralls and other equipment used with each as well as different safety protocols used for putting on and, critically, removing visors and goggles.

Speaking to journalists following the publication of the report Justin Forsyth, the chief executive of Save the Children commented "Although there is no conclusive evidence, the panel suggests that Pauline's use of a visor, within a context geared to the use of goggles, was the most likely cause of her contracting Ebola."

All-in-One Emergency Response and PPE Packs and Kits

This potentially fatal incident highlights the importance of equipment compatibity and good training when dealing with high risk infections such as Ebola. GV Health strongly advocate the use of All-in-One packs and kits for all emergency response staff required to work on the front line of infection control. Key advantages of All-in-One packs and kits are:

  • PPE is fully compatible when used with other items in the kit or pack
  • Equipment is tested and approved for the use the kit or pack is intended for
  • The potential for items to go missing or be substituted is minimised
  • Detailed, illustrated instructions are provided to act as a refresher for staff who use PPE infrequently

GV Health All-in-One Emergency Response and PPE Packs and Kits are in use worldwide by organisations involved directly in the Ebola containment and response programme. For details on the range please use the links below:

blue-crossEmergency Response Kit

blue-crossInfection Containment PPE Packs and Kits