Research into risk of crew infection published


A new article in the Air Medical Journal has looked into the issue of medical helicopter transportation for patients following a biological, radiological or nuclear attack. According to the authors – Youichi Yanagawa MD, Kouhei Ishikawa MD, Ikuto Takeuchi MD, Hiroki Nagasawa MD, Kei Jitsuiki MD, Hiromichi Ohsaka MD, PhD, and Kazuhiko Omori MD, PhD – the risk of secondary infection to pilots and physicians is significant. The abstract of the report states: “The local fire department executed a training simulation for chemical and explosive incidents at a large sports facility. In this training simulation, a physician-staffed helicopter arrived at the request of the fire department and landed just outside the cold zone in the parking area. The doctor and nurse of the helicopter were escorted to a red area in the cold zone, which was selected based on the results of post-decontamination triage. After the patients had been treated, they were air medically evacuated to the base hospital. In the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, St Luke's International Hospital admitted over 600 victims. During this incident, 23.2 per cent of medical staff suffered secondary injury from sarin exposure. If air medial crews respond with subsequent post-exposure effects during flight, an affected pilot could lose control of the helicopter, resulting in a fatal crash. Based on potential safety concerns for air medical and ground personnel, our recommendation would be that air medical helicopters not be dispatched to sites of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive incidents.”

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