Contamination From Airborne Diseases
Several criteria should be take into account when choosing a mask. Such as application, type of mask, level of protection necessary, etc.
Application: depending on the profession, the field of application and the presence or absence of contagious diseases, patients and caregivers use a certain type of mask with a certain level of protection.
The type of mask: the two main types of masks are “surgical” masks and “respirators.” They have different functions, standards and objectives. The key point to keep in mind is that surgical masks only protect against infectious agents. Those that can be transmit via “droplets”, while protective masks or respirators. Also protect against the inhalation of infectious agents that can be transmitted by “airborne” routes.
The level of protection required: each of these types of masks is subject to different standards and regulations in different countries. Within these standards, there are different classes of devices to determine the degree of protection. Refer to the regulations in your geographical area.
Disposable or reusable: Surgical masks are only available as disposable. Respirators can be resuable. In the case of respirators, it is possible to replace the filter once it is full.
Effective life: the duration of a mask’s effectiveness varies according to use. It can be between three and eight hours. A cheaper mask can mean a short period of use. This is systematically indicate by the manufacturer.
Comfort: there are different sizes of masks, adaptable to the morphology of the person who will be wearing it. Protective masks or respirators can also be equip with an exhalation valve to improve user comfort. Some masks also cover the eyes if eye protection is required. These are called full face respirators or masks.
Wearing masks on the streets
N95 respirators and surgical masks (face masks) are examples of personal protective equipment. They are use to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also regulate N95 respirators.
It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone.
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
FDA is working with U.S. Government partners, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and international partners to closely monitor an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
While the U.S. Government considers this a serious public health concern, base on current information. The CDC has determine that the immediate health risk from COVID-19 to the general American public is consider low at this time. People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been report as high though still relatively low risk of exposure. Travelers returning from affected international locations, close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
Which surgical masks or respirators protect against contagious diseases and viruses?
In the presence of patients with contagious diseases or dangerous viruses, caregivers must be equipped with a suitable type of mask with a sufficient level of protection. Let’s take the cases of tuberculosis, coronavirus, SARS, H1N1 and the risks of bioterrorism.
- For the contagious patient: it is necessary to wear a surgical mask to avoid contamination of the surroundings by the projection of saliva droplets or secretions from the upper respiratory tract during exhalation.
- For caregivers and visitors: it is necessary to wear a protective mask of a class of at least FFP1 or FFP2 (Class N or R in the United States) in case of multi-resistant tuberculosis or particularly high-risk situations (intubation, induced sputum, etc.).
- Coronavirus, SARS, H1N1:
- For the contagious patient: it is necessary to wear the surgical mask as soon as contagion is notice.
- Caregivers: it is necessary to wear a protective mask of at least class FFP2 or FFP3 (Class N, R or P in the United States). For maximum filtration of particles and aerosols when caring for a patient who is sick or suspect of being so.
- Anthrax type bioterrorism: it is necessary to wear a FFP2 or FFP3 respirator (Class N, R or P in the United States).
Guidelines for wearing face masks
While face masks can help reduce the spread of the flu and other respiratory viruses, they only do so if worn correctly and frequently.
Here are some guidelines for proper mask-wearing:
- Wear a face mask when coming within 6 feet of a sick person.
- Position the strings to keep the mask firmly in place over the nose, mouth, and chin. Try not to touch the mask again until you remove it.
- Wear a face mask before going near other people if you have the flu.
- If you have the flu and need to see a doctor, wear a face mask to protect others in the waiting area.
- Consider wearing a mask in crowded settings if the flu is widespread in your community, or if you’re at high risk for flu complications.
- When you wear the mask, throw it away and wash your hands after a while. Never reuse a face mask.