The N95 mask is the type of PPE (personal protective equipment). Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a type of protective clothing that protects against chemical, electrical, airborne, and physical injury. The equipment us for the protection, including face masks, gloves, helmet, gowns, and eyeglasses. They are made for one-time-use. If it is used repeatedly, it diminishes its purpose. These masks lose their efficiency every time it undergoes contamination.
The COVID-19 pandemic highly increases the demand for N95 respirators. Because of the fact that this life-threatening virus can be spread through the air medium, every time an infected person laughs, talks, breath, cough, and sneezes. It is strictly recommended, especially for all healthcare workers, to wear NIOSH approved N95 respirators during their working hours. To fight against this deadly situation, the safety of all health care providers really matters a lot.
As the news of the first positive report of COVID-19 breaks in the media, the situation is alarming for everyone. Due to this, the general public starts wearing N95 respirators. Later on, every person in any industry/workplace seems wearing an N95 respirator. It significantly affected the supply chain of N95 respirators to the health care setups.
N95 respirators, which are specially manufactured for use in hospitals or clinics, now used in every nook and corner. The burning question is: Are there enough N95 masks available for doctors?
Are there N95 masks available for doctors?
Due to the shortage in the supply chain of N95 masks, the only profession that suffers a lot are the health care providers. All doctors and health care practitioners work as a front line defense in the pandemic at the cost of their lives. A time came when every health care provider is said to use an N95 mask until it breaks. It was horrible. This is not safe for both, neither the physician nor the patient. Many nurses and other medical personnel did not feel secure and began to suffer from depression and anxiety. To meet the supply and demand, many well-known manufacturing companies have increased their production of N95 masks. The companies that played a major role during the pandemic are 3M, Honeywell, Prestige Ameritech, Ambu, and many others.
The standards on which respirators are evaluated address several issues, including filtration effectiveness, breathability, fit and fluid barrier. N95 respirators must be assessed against those standards and certified by NIOSH. The filtration effectiveness of any respirator can be tested by various methods. Each method includes particle size, particle load, particle measure, airspeed, and particle type. NIOSH method has its own and different testing standards. The N95 respirators approved by NIOSH possess 95% filtration efficiency, which means N95 respirators can filter out all airborne and dust particles up to 95%.
It was suggested to use N95 respirators only in all health care settings, not in public sectors (as it was supposed to be). Regardless of the recommendations, the public sector began purchasing N95 masks instead of surgical masks or cloth masks. This makes it very difficult for all health care providers to maintain close contact with patients infected with the coronavirus without taking appropriate precautions.
To address the shortage, different countries employ different strategies, including the method of decontamination. However, not a single person (health care providers) seems to be satisfied with this strategy.
As we know, N95 ventilators require a variety of testing procedures to be approved for their high quality and effectiveness. N95 respirators are widely used in healthcare steps to prevent harmful respiratory droplets present in the hospital environment. The N95 ventilators have a very high filtering efficiency. It can be used in many occupations where exposure to dust and other non-oil particulates are very high. An N95 respirator is specially designed to be used in various industries including, food manufacturing, occupational work, mining, iron ore, health care setups, welding, sweeping, dusting, and many other working environments. Each time the N95 respirator goes through the decontamination process, it loses its filtration quality and filtration efficiency. Nurses and other staff were unsatisfied with the intervention and strategies.
There are also many different strategies and recommendations implemented in an emergency situation: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) carried out a test to check the breathing system filters and any leakage in the N95 masks. It can badly affect the filtration efficiency and cannot prevent infectious agents. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also came up with the strategy of using disposable N95 respirators to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This is another highly beneficial recommendation, using N95 disposable respirators to prevent harmful respiratory droplets from coming out of the patient’s mouth or to keep health care professionals safe. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) carried out the proper fitting test of N95 respirators. According to OSHA, if the mask does not fit correctly on the face, then it will not give any advantage. The N95 breathing apparatus must be perfectly adjusted to your face to provide a seal against harmful agents.
All the above-mentioned strategies and recommendations are suggested to ensure the availability of N95 respirators for health care providers. Unfortunately, the world is still confronted with a shortage of N95 breathing apparatus. All manufacturers are doing the best to bridge the gap. During this life-threatening pandemic, the use of the N95 mask should be restricted to all healthcare settings.