The corona virus outbreak incited panic all around the world as it spread so rapidly. A number of interventions including personal protective equipment, social distancing, hand hygiene, and proper ventilation were then recognized as optimal ways to limit the disease transmission. NIOSH N95 face masks, surgical masks, and cloth masks protect the wearer from inhaling airborne and liquid droplets to varying extent. What matters most is your risk of exposure to infected droplets so as to choose safety precautions accordingly.
N95 face masks were initially reserved for the front line workers as the U.S struggled with critical shortage of face masks when COVID-19 pandemic started. However, PPE makers took rapid action in order to provide adequate equipment specifically for the medical community so they can save other lives as well. ALG Health has successfully produced face masks to serve front line health workers as they struggle day and night for the nation. The NIOSH N95 face masks are lightweight and comfortable for longer wear time. Although these masks are ideal for a single use, you may consider reusing them only by following proper donning, doffing, and decontamination methods. Also, make sure that the seal of mask is not damaged or soiled when you wear it again or else you will lose its purpose.
Why are N95 Face Masks Most Effective Against Corona virus?
The ongoing Corona virus pandemic can live in the air and on surfaces until they find a medium for transmission all over again. We, as humans have been targeted by COVID-19 as it is continuously mutating with its new variants. Face masks have become an integral part of our daily lives to protect against COVID-19. N95 face masks are the most effective of all other masks as they capture 95% of the viral particles within its filter. The filtration media used for designing different face masks makes all the difference in how efficient they are for protection against viruses. No other mask secures the seal like an N95 respirator does which is why CDC recommends them for the health workers. The molded N95 respirator with metal nose piece gives a custom fit for wearer while the N95 respirator with an exhale valve eases breathing. While PPE makers are doing their best for providing certified high quality face masks, it is our duty to choose and wear the mask that suits you best.
Is It Safe to Decontaminate N95 Face Masks?
A number of factors can be considered when we have to decontaminate N95 masks or any other face mask for reuse. There is literally no harm in reusing face masks if they are still effective for protecting against the corona virus. However, you should follow effective decontamination strategies depending on the material of mask and degree of exposure to viral particles. Health care workers have used N95 face masks in rotation to lower the risk of pathogen exposure significantly by placing them in breathable paper bags for a minimum of 5 days. This technique allows the wearer to reuse N95 masks 5 times. Other methods include sterilizing N95 in the oven, steaming, and using it concurrently with a surgical mask. All methods are considered for reusing N95 face masks although CDC does not verify any of these for decontamination of face masks. Whatever technique you choose, it may still affect the filtering efficiency and effectiveness of the mask which no longer acts as a protective barrier.
How Long Can Corona Virus Live on Different Surfaces?
Corona virus is believed to live on different surfaces for varying periods depending on the temperature and ventilation of surroundings. The virus can stabilize itself on cloth, paper, stainless steel, tissue, wood, and even bank notes. Whether to use decontamination methods for reusing face masks is still debatable but there is no reason why you shouldn’t disinfect the masks for safe disposal. Studies found corona virus to have survived for longer periods of time at cold temperatures compared to hot temperatures. The infectious virus can however live on tissue paper for 3 hours, on wood and cloth for 2 days, on smooth surfaces for 4 days, and on surgical mask for 7 days.