14.5 Personal protective measures

Personal protective measures aim at minimising the risk of bacillus transmission by providing barriers to inhaling or exhaling infectious droplet nuclei.

14.5.1 Respirators (or high-filtration masks or anti-inhalation masks)

A respirator is personal protective equipment that prevents inhalation of infectious droplet nuclei by the person who wears it.

Exposed staff
Staff must wear a respirator, regardless if they are the caregiver or not. Respirators should be worn:
– When in contact with contagious patients (suspect or confirmed TB case);
– When collecting sputum samples;
– When collecting and disposing of sputum containers;
– In areas where droplet nuclei could be present (i.e. a room that has been occupied by a TB case, prior to the time required for air cleaning).
Using respirators needs proper training, fit testing and continuous supervision. This also applies to home-based DOT supervisors.

Visitors and attendants must wear a respirator when entering a contagious TB patient’s room.

For more information on respirators, see Appendix 20.

14.5.2 Face or surgical masks

Face masks are medical devices that prevent patients from spreading infectious droplets when talking, coughing or sneezing. They should be worn by contagious patients (suspect or confirmed) when they leave their rooms to go to another department or any other enclosed area. They should not be worn when the patient is alone in his/her room and outdoors.

For more information on surgical masks, see Appendix 21.

Using a mask in public areas could be stigmatizing. Patients can use a cloth scarf to achieve the same purpose.