Maryland's emergency medical personnel and firefighters will receive a set of guidelines on reducing their on-the-job risk of being exposed to AIDS, state medical officials said.
About 23,000 copies of a newsletter containing instructions on protection against acquired immune deficiency syndrome were mailed this month to emergency workers, according to the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, based at the University of Maryland.
"I urge you to follow the guidelines discussed in this newsletter," Gov. William Donald Schaefer wrote in a letter that accompanied the guidelines.
The guidelines explain that the virus linked to the fatal disorder is transmitted by body fluids. Thus, emergency personnel must take precautions to keep those fluids away from open wounds and areas such as eyes, nose and mouth where the virus could penetrate the body's mucous membranes, the guidelines explain.
Among the recommendations:
Paramedics, firefighters and other emergency personnel should wear gloves in any situation involving open injuries that involve handling blood or bodily fluids. Those include gunshot wounds or stabbings, auto accidents and births. The guidelines suggest three types of gloves to use, depending on the situation.
Masks should be worn when blood or bloody secretions could be splashed in the mouth, according to the guidelines.
Eye protection should be donned when blood or bloody secretions could be splashed in the eyes.
Any open wounds, abrasions and insect bites should be bandaged to avoid infection through open skin, the guidelines state.
Workers should take special care when handling sharp instruments such as needles and glass. Because most needle-stick injuries occur when needles are recapped, the guidelines advise workers to throw out needles rather than recap them.
Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should be done mechanically, using masks whenever possible, although the risk of infection by saliva is believed to be extremely low. No cases have been documented.
Workers should wash their hands after every patient transport and as soon as patient care allows.