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Healthcare worker protection against epidemic viral respiratory disease
  1. Yarrow Scantling-Birch1,
  2. Richard Newton2,
  3. Hasan Naveed3,4,
  4. Saul Rajak4,5,
  5. Mahmood F Bhutta4,6
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, UK
  2. 2Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, UK
  3. 3Department of Ophthalmology, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guildford, Surrey, UK
  4. 4Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer Campus, Brighton, UK
  5. 5Department of Oculoplastics, Sussex Eye Hospital, Brighton, UK
  6. 6Department of Ear, Nose & Throat, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yarrow Scantling-Birch, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, UK; yarrow.scantlingbirch{at}


Lower respiratory infections are often caused or precipitated by viruses and are a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality. Mutations in these viral genomes can produce highly infectious strains that transmit across species and have the potential to initiate epidemic, or pandemic, human viral respiratory disease. Transmission between humans primarily occurs via the airborne route and is accelerated by our increasingly interconnected and globalised society. To this date, there have been four major human viral respiratory outbreaks in the 21st century. Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at particular risk during respiratory epidemics or pandemics. This is due to crowded working environments where social distancing, or wearing respiratory personal protective equipment for prolonged periods, might prove difficult, or performing medical procedures that increase exposure to virus-laden aerosols, or bodily fluids. This review aims to summarise the evidence and approaches to occupational risk and protection of HCWs during epidemic or pandemic respiratory viral disease.

  • respiratory infections
  • virology
  • risk management
  • health and safety
  • health services administration and management

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  • Collaborators N/A.

  • Contributors MB was involved in the idea for this review. All authors were involved in the subsequent manuscript planning, literature review, writing and editing of this review. All authors accept full responsibility for the review and decision to publish.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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