Use of Surgical Masks instead of N95 Are Putting Covid Warriors at Serious Risk

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Because high-end N95 masks are scarce, Covid Warriors are using less protective surgical masks. A surgical mask is not personal protective equipment (PPE).

In India, Covid Warriors like doctors, medical and police staff  have tested positive for coronovirus (Covid-19), raising the eyebrows of the Union Health Ministry. The Health Ministry is trying to assess the situation and ascertain whether these doctors and medical staff have been infected by Covid-19 positive patients. The government has now started contact tracing of such cases to accurately assess the reason for them getting infected. It was also found that due to shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the hospitals, the doctors and medical staff have become vulnerable to coronavirus patients they are treating.

A N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. According to Scientific American.

The 'N95' designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death. But surgical masks, designed to protect patients from a surgeon’s respiratory droplets, aren’t effective at blocking particles smaller than 100 microns, according to mask maker 3M Corp.  surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. These are often referred to as face masks, although not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks. Note that the edges of the mask are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth.

Research from early April, examining two hospitals in South Korea, found surgical masks “seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination” of coronavirus particles. A 2013 Chinese study found that twice as many health workers, 17%, got a respiratory illness if they wore a surgical mask treating sick patients, compared with 7% of those who continuously used an N95, per the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Source: Scientific American, livemint.com, fda.gov

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