As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen, there are concerns about the risk to frontline health-care workers.
Local paramedics are taking precautions when responding to all infectious disease calls, wearing gloves, plastic gowns, N-95 masks and full-face visors.
“To the unenlightened it can be kind of frightening, but it's just standard precaution we've been taking for many years,” said Ryan Ackerman, the paramedic practice educator for BC Emergency Health Services in Vancouver.
Ackerman says seeing paramedics in masks doesn’t necessarily mean they’re responding to reports of COVID-19.
"Every influenza-like call, every potentially infectious call, our paramedics are putting this gear on,” he explained.
The current protocol was established after the Ebola, H1N1, and SARS outbreaks.
“The predominant lesson learned from that was that health-care workers were actually more at risk taking off their protective gear than putting it on,” the paramedic told CTV News Vancouver.
Response exercises and additional training for paramedics are now underway across the province to prevent those mistakes from happening again.
“As we remove our visor, we're wanting to keep our eyes closed, so we're not risking any contaminants getting to our eyes,” said paramedic Greg Sales during a demonstration.
Ackerman warns wearing protective gear of your own, without proper training, could actually do you more harm than good.
“If you wear the mask and think you're safe and take it off improperly you could re-infect yourself," he said. "It's really something that should be reserved for health-care workers that are in close proximity to an infectious patient.”
He says the best way to protect yourself and others is to follow the advice being echoed every day: wash your hands regularly and stay home if you’re sick.
There have been 21 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C. so far.