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Posted: 8/4/2009 6:59:26 PM EST
Very conflicting information out there. I'm leaning towards "might help as part of a tiered prevention system" (avoidance, handwashing, etc.). What do you think?
Link Posted: 8/4/2009 7:06:42 PM EST
the n95 is rated against the inhalation of the flu viruses. but no mask is going to protect you if you don't wash up.
Link Posted: 8/4/2009 7:55:26 PM EST
Originally Posted By Kolonij2:
the n95 is rated against the inhalation of the flu viruses. but no mask is going to protect you if you don't wash up.

It will stop particles to which viruses are attached. I've never head anybody I would trust suggest they don't work, but they have limitations- They won't stop all particles, are only good when worn, when they fit right, and against airborne transmission.

Definatelly not as important as handwashing for most people. I'd suspect they are kind of pointless for lots of people, but mass transit, or really crowded worklocations may justify them.

Link Posted: 8/4/2009 8:10:01 PM EST
(The link no longer seems to work, but I still have the article saved)

Canadians are obviously buying all kinds of products that there never intended to protect people from SARS, so Marketplace decided to do some testing.

We bought three kinds of N95s, the ones recommended for health care workers. Then we randomly picked a procedure mask (the kind you might see on your dentist), a surgical mask (like you'd see in a hospital) and one of those dust masks you often find in hardware stores, used for painting and other messy work. We also tossed in a bandana — a sampling of the products some Canadians have been using since the SARS scare began.

We brought our collection to one of the best-known labs for testing this sort of thing — a long way from the SARS outbreak — in Salt Lake City, Utah.

One of our Marketplace producers arrived at Nelson Laboratories, where microbiologist Jeff Hills prepared the masks for testing.

They spray a fine salt solution with particles the size of those in viruses similar to SARS — particles as small as 0.3 microns. So small you can’t even see the spray.

"What we’re looking for is those sub-micron aerosols that could be created when you sneeze or when someone coughs, but they’re going to be the smaller particles that you don’t see, because they’ll stay in the air stream for some period of time," Hills said.

We tested three versions of each mask, just to make certain our tests were precise.

"You want a lower number on the penetration," Hills said.

The lower the number means the fewer particles made it through the mask.

The results

The red bandana. Cost $3.99. It filtered out only about 10 per cent of small viruses.

The dust mask didn’t do much better. It cost $1.25. Its best rating: 13 per cent of tiny particles blocked. Just barely ahead of the bandana.

The filter mask cost $7.99. But it, too, ranked amongst the worst. You’d only be protected from about 13 per cent of all small viruses.

That doesn't surprise Jeff Hills.

"Products that are designed for use in your basement, or for out in the garden or something like that should not necessarily be used to protect against biological agents or particulate matter," Hills said.

The big surprise came when we tested masks being used by those most at risk — health care workers. A procedure mask — similar to a surgical mask has been deemed acceptable for protection against SARS by Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

The procedure mask scored 34 per cent. The surgical mask filtered out 62 per cent of the particles — much better than the dust mask or bandana.

But even health care workers are wearing surgical masks to protect from the risk of SARS. Ever since the scare first hit, Ugis Bickis has been saying they don’t work. He’s angry that this is the frontline protection for many health care workers.

"Particularly health care workers or family members of people who are sick and who are trying to protect themselves, really deserve better protection that a surgical mask," Bickis told Marketplace.

One piece of good news: the masks that all health officials recommend as the best protection against SARS did well in our test. They are called N95s — and they more than live up to their name. The three kinds we tested filtered out between 97 and 99.7 per cent of all the virus-like particles.

One thing we didn’t test for was how these masks fit. Bickis says that’s a big concern.

"What happens when I put this mask on, and again if I were to tie it up…there would be some kind of gap between the mask and my face, and when I inhale, some of the air would come in through that gap. That means that there is no filtration offered."

These masks don’t usually work for children or men with beards.

Bickis is dismayed by the lack of information.

"I think people are very seriously misinformed. Those who are advising on what kind of protection to wear simply don’t have the necessary knowledge to do so properly."

Our tests suggest the N95 might offer the best protection against SARS. But there’s another worry: if people who don’t really need them keep buying them, there might not be enough left over for those in real danger of being exposed to the virus.
Link Posted: 8/4/2009 9:01:14 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/4/2009 9:04:59 PM EST by Country_Boy]
As a former EMT, no one has ever suggested to me that surgical masks are intended for the protection of the wearer, except for liquid sprays. Surgical masks are for the protection of the patient from contamination from the health care worker. N95s are typically (everday) used for the protection of the health care worker from TB, but can also be listed as a surgical mask meaning they also protect the patient (or coworkers.) The medical field has been using N95s against TB since before they were called N95s.

Kind of wondering who in Health Canada suggested "procedure masks" or non N-95 rated surgical masks were the correct choice. If thats all that is available, it's far better then nothing (as documented n the article), but that wasn't stated. Maybe one of our Alabama community colleges could send a few instructors up to Canada :-). They could also point out that in tests, latex golves did nothing to protect EMTs from cuts at auto accidents.

Good article, an independant confirmation of what CDC and NIOSH have said.
Link Posted: 8/4/2009 9:53:57 PM EST
Depending on who you asked in our infectious disease dept, some stated droplet precautions was adequate and others stated you had to go N95, full out airborne iso with neg pressure rooms, and contact iso.

During the peak of swine flu madness, we (the RN's) ending up running with procedure masks for PPE when dealing with patients with flu like symptoms. This was pretty much everyone that walked into the ER, since the news had whipped everyone up in a frenzy and Dallas has large Hispanic population. If the patient came back positive on rapid flu swab, then we switched to our standard N95's. You might be asking yourself, why would we not be wearing them in the first place? Try wearing one for the majority of a 12 hour shift and you'll understand. After a string of consecutive day shifts, I was convinced I was going to have a permanent red ring around my face.

Link Posted: 8/5/2009 2:14:13 AM EST
n95's will protect you if in regular close contact with the bug (or someone infected)
Keep in mind that you will want to practice "contact precautions" which means also wearing exam gloves, an isolation gown, along with your respirator mask.

For general contact, day to day woalking about, an n95 will keep the particles carrying the bug out of your respiratory system.
That said, wash your hands every time you touch commonly handled items (like door handles, railings, elevator buttons, light switches, etc)

If you practice proper precautions, with the appropraite PPE, and maintain excellent infection control hygiene, you will maximize your ability to remain healthy.

When in doubt, call the local hospital in your area and ask to speak with the infection control practitioner...they will give you the straight info on what works and what doesnt.
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