An Institute of Medicine task force responsible for recommending protections for healthcare workers from the swine flu/H1N1 virus held a meeting last week, and CIDRAP reporters were there. Robert Roos reports that the first day focused on the efficacy of surgical masks and N95 respirators in shielding healthcare workers from respiratory illness:

The IOM panel learned, for example, that N95 respirators—whether fit-tested or not—reduced respiratory illnesses in a recent multiple-hospital study in China, whereas surgical masks were not effective. But other studies, focusing on household transmission of flu, suggested that both surgical masks and N95-type respirators are valuable. 

Covering the second day of the conference, Lisa Schnirring highlights the differences between different surgical masks’ aerosol-blocking capabilities and concerns about whether and how healthcare workers will use protective equipment provided for them.

A post on the NIOSH Science Blog about the meeting attracted several comments, many of them noting the importance of proper cleaning of facilities and equipment (including ambulances) that flu patients come into contact with.

Associated Press: A massive explosion at a hydroelectric plant in Siberia has killed at least 13 workers; another 61 are missing and feared to be dead.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A new study published in JAMA reports that the production of wind and solar energy poses fewer risks to workers than the production of fossil-fuel energy, given the dangers associated with fossil-fuel extraction.

Yale Alumni Magazine: In 2007, Yale School of Drama masters student Pierre-André Salim was killed by falling set materials; now, the drama school has created a full-time safety director’s position.

CNN: Scientists are analyzing blood samples from pilots and flight attendants who suffer from illnesses that may be linked to exposure to contaminated cabin air.

New York Times: For the first time in our country’s military history, tens of thousands of U.S. women are living and fighting alongside men. The feared disruption of discipline and disintegration of unit cohesion haven’t happened, although problems with sexual harassment and assault remain. (Silbey at The Edge of the American West provides some context with a description of how desegregation happened in US forces.)