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Report: EMS workers face higher infection risk than other first responders

The research also shows the effectiveness of on-site vaccine clinics and educational programs, as well as vaccine mandates


FDNY EMS providers wearing personal protective equipment move a patient into an ambulance on April 14, 2020.

File photo/Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

By Leila Merrill

A new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides evidence of infectious pathogen exposure among EMS providers.

The report also shows the effectiveness of on-site vaccine clinics and educational programs, as well as vaccine mandates.

Key points

  • EMS workers appear to be at higher risk of infection when compared to firefighters and other frontline emergency personnel.
  • Little research exists on infectious diseases in 911 dispatchers and telecommunicators.
  • Research studies on infectious diseases in the EMS and 911 workforce have increased significantly since the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Most research since 2006 has concentrated on the epidemiology of infections and infection risk.
  • Research into the field effectiveness of N95 respirator and surgical face mask personal protective equipment is limited, especially in the arena of airborne diseases.
  • Regular hand hygiene decreases the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Standard precautions, such as gloves, decrease the chance of needlestick exposures.
  • Vaccine uptake increases with the application of on-site directed clinics in the workforce, especially when combined with an active, targeted educational program with supervisor and peer support.
  • Mandatory influenza vaccine programs increase the likelihood of vaccine uptake.
  • Research into EMS and 911 infectious disease issues would be strengthened by a national research agenda including improved data uniformity, use of appropriate comparison groups, and comparable outcome measures.

Read the report here.

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