The COVID-19 pandemic also known as the corona virus’s pandemic, is an ongoing pandemic caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. As of 5 November 2020, more than 48.2 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 1.22 million deaths.
Covid-19 mainly spreads through the air when people are near each other long enough, primarily via small droplets or aerosols. As an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, sings or speaks. It can spread as early as 2 days before the infected person shows symptoms. People remain infected for up to 10 days in moderate cases, and 2 weeks in severe cases.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. The incubation period is typically around five days but may range from 1 to 14 days. There are several vaccine candidates in development, although none have completed clinical trials.
How to avoid transmission of COVID-19?
AS N95 is highly spreadable and can be transmitted by touching the infected person. Apart from other precautionary measures such as avoiding touching your face, avoiding handshaking and embracing, maintaining social distancing, using a face mask is the real and the easiest way to avoid spreading.
Generally, there are three types of masks in use.
- Homemade fabric mask
- Surgical mask
- N95 respirators
Among all these N95 respirators are most in use, due to its high efficiency. N95 respirators are more tight-fitting face masks. In addition to splashes, sprays, and large droplets, N95 respirators can also filter out 95% of other small particles. N95 respirators are generally oval, with strips attached to its ends, and are designed to form a tight seal to your face.
Because of its high demand, N95 respirators can face a shortage in the market. Or some people can face problems associated with it like breakage, losing, and leakage. Below are some guidelines provided to cope with such situations instead of getting panic.
Who should/not use an N95 respirator?
- N95 respirators are recommended only for use by the health care personnel (HCP) who need protection from splashes and sprays.
- N95 respirators are not used or needed outside healthcare settings.
General guidelines to cope with N95 shortage
Supplies of N95 respirators can become depleted during pandemics, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is highly spreadable from one person to another if come in contact with each other. N95 respirators are highly efficient against the control of the Coronavirus. But what if your N95 respirator breaks or is short?
The Centre for Disease Control provided some guidelines to conserve supplies shortage of N95 respirators. These existing guidelines for Health care institutions are the following.
- Minimize the number of individuals who need to use respiratory protection through the professional use of engineering.
- Use alternatives to N95 respirators such as other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, elastomeric half masks, and full facepiece air-purifying respirators.
- If you are not a patient or a medical worker or having complications of symptoms avoid using N95 respirators. Instead, use a cloth or surgical mask.
- Implement practices allowing extended use or limited reuse of N95 respirators when acceptable.
Demand for N95 respirators
Due to global shortages, 3M Co has ramped up its production of N95 respirators, doubling its normal output. The company is currently manufacturing a hundred million N95 respirators per month worldwide, with 35 million of these being produced in the US. Furthermore, the 3M chief executive officer has stated that the company aims to increase its production even further, to reach 50 million per month by June 2020.
Even with all of the increased production, there are still not enough N95 respirators being produced to accommodate all of the health care workers and medical staff who need them worldwide, let alone to satisfy consumer demand within the general population. This has led to server issues. Shortages of personal protective equipment have caused some health care workers to resort to manufacturing their own out of items such as trash bags, while others are considering refusing to work if they do not receive the supplies needed to protect themselves.
Guidelines for the extended use and limited Reuse of N95 respirators (NIOSH, CDC)
Extended use or limited reuse is new approaches to cope with the N95 respirators shortage.
The Centre for Disease Control recommended these two new approaches to the shortage of N95 respirators.
It refers to the practice of wearing the same N95 respirator for repeated close contact encounters with several patients without removing the respirator between patients.
Guidelines for Extended use:
- The extended use approach is well suited to situations wherein multiple patients are infected with the same respiratory pathogens.
- Where patients are placed together in dedicated waiting rooms or hospital wards.
Limited reuse approach refers to practice if using the same N95 respirators for multiple encounters with patients but for removing N95 after each encounter with the patients
Guidelines for Reuse:
- It is recommended for pathogens in which contact transmission is not a concern. The CDC recommends that a respirator classified as disposable can be reused by the same worker.
Extended use is favored over limited reuse because it is expected to involve less touching of the respirators and therefore less risk of contact transmission. A key consideration for extended use is that the respirator must maintain its fit and functions.