Thursday, April 06, 2006

Avian flu and management science

H5N1 Avian is in Scotland, not a problem for non-poultry farmers, but H5N1 pandemic flu will be a bit of a problem not least for health workers when it emerges. We can probably reduce our chance of falling victim to the pandemic ourselves by wearing masks (it seemed to work for SARS). Trouble is the masks cost about £2 each, and each worker in contact with infected patients or potentially infected patients will need about 2 a day. That's £4 a day for the organisation with the biggest payroll in the world now that the Red Army is history and which is nearly £1,000,000,000 in the red this year.

So I wonder to myself, could the masks be sterilised and reused, thus saving the NHS squillions? I ask a helpful public health physician,and she writes to a manager

Hi J

Had a query from the GPs.. Do you think that masks could be 'sterilised' by being microwaved? They are looking for practical ways to recycle equipment given the likely shortage and cost involved.



The reply:

An FFP3 mask should be effective for 8 hours they are single use disposable
equipment & therefore cannot be reprocessed. Microwaves are not use (sic) in sterilization as far as I know, so I am not sure how effective this would be.

Best Wishes


Infection Control Nurse

K posts back to me with:

Re you mask related query. Not sure it's worth going to the virologists because the wouldn't be allowed to tell us to do anything that contravened health and safety guidance..

to which I reply thus

"I am not sure how effective this would be."

This is true. So the scientific approach would be to say, "Let us see how effective it would be".

The method would be to
1 Pop a mask in to a microwave, give it 3 minutes and see if it melts or explodes.

2 If it survives, spray a known virus onto a mask and pop it in again
3 See if the virus has survived or not.

If the microwave can sterilize the mask, (i.e. kill the virus) we repeat the experiment with Influenza viruses, and find the optimum sterilization time.

If this method works, the NHS could end up saving £millions.

However, I fully accept that this procedure, or any experimental process leading or intended to lead to such a procedure, would be outwith normal operational parameters of the NHS leadership in these matters, and should therefore be deemed utterly impractical and utopian, inasmuch as it is not
contained in the papers and other informational media relating to this subject, and I give my solemn undertaking as an NHS functionary that I will endeavour to cease thinking of it or of any matter related to it, or in any way to think of any operational procedure or matter which is not already
contained in the papers and other informational materials which are handed down to us from the committees and authorities with properly designated and invested powers to be responsible for thinking about these matters.



No comments: