While the world observes stay-at-home rules and social distancing guidelines to protect themselves from the raging coronavirus pandemic, medics and health workers tending the COVID-19 patients have no such liberty as they battle the outbreak from the frontlines.

Keeping this in mind, the University Hospital Southampton (UHS)has become the first in the U.K. to ensure that its staff wears a pioneering respirator hood while treating COVID-19 patients.

The respirator hood in question is a PeRSo device with a fabric hood with a plastic visor which protects the face, while delivering clean air through a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (Hepa) filter with the help of a fan on a belt worn by the medic. This device has been developed by a prototype created by University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre in less than a week to ensure that the hospital’s staff wears it.

The ingenious design of the prototype was the joint effort of the researchers collaborating with the F1 team McLaren and industry experts including INDO and Kemp Sails. The design is now available to be manufactured around the world but hasn’t received regulatory approval yet. As of now, the FFP3 masks with visors for staff in high-risk clinical areas are mandatory but the PeRSo device is currently undergoing evaluation to see if it proves to be more effective.

"Frontline medical staff are constantly at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 infection, and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a recurrent subject of debate through the pandemic,” said Professor Paul Elkington, who initiated the project and is also a consultant and professor in respiratory medicine in Southampton.

"The aim is to minimise the risk of infection for medical staff and the engineering team have rapidly developed something simple yet effective which can provide further protection and resolve some of the supply chain issues associated with disposable PPE,” he added. "The Hepa filtered air removes more than 99.95 percent of particulate matter and the face mask protects from splashes and accidental touching, so we believe this will significantly reduce the risk of infection further."

UHS has already ordered 5,000 PeRSo units as they have “every confidence this will become a vital piece of healthcare equipment globally,” shared Dr. Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer at UHS.

"While the currently-available standard PPE equipment provides high levels of protection for all staff when used appropriately and in line with infection control guidance, any development which could improve that protection is very welcome."

Coronavirus COVID-19 Doctors New York, USA
Representational image. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

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