Protecting health care workers from SARS and other respiratory pathogens: a review of the infection control literature

Am J Infect Control. 2005 Mar;33(2):114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2004.12.002.


Background: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was responsible for outbreaks in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Singapore. SARS focused attention on the adequacy of and compliance with infection control practices in preventing airborne and droplet-spread transmission of infectious agents.

Methods: This paper presents a review of the current scientific knowledge with respect to the efficacy of personal protective equipment in preventing the transmission of respiratory infections. The effectiveness of infection control policies and procedures used in clinical practice is examined.

Results: Literature searches were conducted in several databases for articles published in the last 15 years that related to infection control practices, occupational health and safety issues, environmental factors, and other issues of importance in protecting workers against respiratory infections in health care settings.

Conclusion: Failure to implement appropriate barrier precautions is responsible for most nosocomial transmissions. However, the possibility of a gradation of infectious particles generated by aerosolizing procedures suggests that traditional droplet transmission prevention measures may be inadequate in some settings. Further research is needed in this area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Protective Clothing
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / transmission*