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N95 Mask and its Disadvantages: Govt Warns Against Use of N95 Masks With Valved Respirator

N95 Mask and its Disadvantages: As coronavirus cases in the country continue to shoot up, the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to all the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, informed that it has been observed that there is an inappropriate use of N95 masks, especially those with valved respirators, by the public. The central govt. has also written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are “detrimental” to the measures adopted for its containment.

According to the CDC, respirators with valves for exhalation shouldn’t be used in situations where the surrounding environment needs to be sterile, or germ-free. This is because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the surrounding air. In situations where a person wearing an N95 mask with an exhalation valve has the virus but shows no symptoms, they would be releasing the virus into the surrounding air putting others nearby at risk of a COVID-19 infection.

What is N95 Mask?

N95 masks are such masks that prevent inhalation of 95% of hazardous materials from the air. These masks prevent airborne particles and should only be worn in areas where there is no presence of oil. These masks are not resistant to oil. The number 95 stands for the percentage of airborne particles that the masks can keep away. In most places, health care workers have to be trained to pass a test to confirm the mask is sealed properly. Valves in the N95 and other masks make it easier for people to breathe also reducing the moisture which builds up in the face mask. It also keeps the face cooler. The valves of N95 have their disadvantages, too. The problem with valves arises as they filter the air being inhaled, but do not filter the air being exhaled.

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Govt. Advisory

  • The government issued an advisory in April regarding the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, govt. urged people to wear masks, particularly when they step out of their residences.
  • The advisory also stressed that face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, it instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.
  • The advisory stated that the colour of the fabric does not matter but people must ensure that the fabric is washed carefully in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended.
  • Govt. advisory also listed the procedures of making homemade masks and face covers. It asked people to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.
  • It has urged people to wash hands thoroughly with soap before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh face cover as it becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

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Guidelines For Face Covers

  • Use of face covers, especially when stepping out of the house, is recommended to slow down the spread of the virus.
  • Homemade face covers or masks should only be used by the general public. Healthcare and other frontline workers, who may come in regular contact with infected people should wear proper PPE equipment.
  • A set of at least two face covers should be available with one person, so they can wash one and use the other.
  • The face cover should be made with a clean cloth. It should cover the nose and mouth completely when tied on the face.
  • Face covers and masks should not be shared, even among the family members.

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