The current pandemic we’re living in is caused by a respiratory virus discovered at the end of last year. COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019, and the virus has been named the SARS-CoV-2, meaning severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. This virus is still being studied to better understand its negative effects on humans, as how to prevent and treat this disease.
Back in January, little was known about this virus, but now we know much more, including the way it’s transmitted from person to person. The virus is contained in fluid droplets that are released by infected individuals. When a healthy person inhales the virus, it starts colonizing the respiratory tract and damaging the lungs.
The best face mask among all the available disposable face masks, N95 masks have been considered the best ones for virus protection, particularly for healthcare workers, where they’re needed the most. The value of these masks have made them scarce items, and shortages of medical PPE (personal protective equipment) and this mask in particular are affecting the healthcare facilities across the United States.
Today, we’ll talk about the availability of N95 masks in Oregon.
Availability of N95 masks in Oregon
As mentioned above, most states in the USA have been struggling to supply their healthcare centers with enough medical supplies. The main focus has been on N95 respirators, which are the scarcest item, as well as the most important one. Oregon isn’t the exception to this situation, however, they seem to be more prepared now than they were earlier in the year.
With the new surge of cases expected to be approaching and be worse than the first one, Oregon has prepared and has a warehouse stocked with medical PPE. This includes 10 million surgical masks and nearly 4 million N95 masks, as well as gowns and gloves, with new shipments of PPE arriving every day. All of this is directed to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, the only ones urged at the moment to obtain N95 masks.
An explanation on why N95 masks are so important
Inside the USA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH, is a federal agency that was created as a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their goal is to make recommendations and spread information to the workplaces in the country to prevent work-related injuries or illnesses.
To achieve this, they regulate respirators manufactured inside the USA. These are very important for many work settings in which the workers are exposed to respiratory hazards, which are particles that can be inhaled and cause serious health issues when exposed to either acutely or chronically. NIOSH tests respirators to make sure they meet their requirements for each respirator type inside their classification.
The NIOSH classification of respirators uses a two-part system to name respirators according to two properties found in them:
- Oil resistance: this indicates how well the respirator can filter out oil-based particles. This is represented on the first part of the name with a letter: N means not resistant, R means somewhat resistant, and P means oil-proof.
- Filtration rate: this indicates how many of the airborne particles in the air the respirator can filter out, represented on the second part of the name with a number. This is the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy, and it can be either 95, 99, or 100%.
Based on this classification, nine possible respirators can exist with the combinations of the three alternatives in each property. For example, besides N95 respirators, there are also R100, N99, or P95 ones. If we follow the explanation given above, N95 masks would be respirators with no resistance to oil and a filtration rate of 95% of the airborne particles in the air.
This means they can’t filter out particles that contain oil, like cutting fluids or glycerin, or particles that are too small, like gases or vapors. On the other hand, they can filter out hazardous particles that are not oil-based and are airborne, including dust, smoke, and viruses like the flu or the novel coronavirus, as well as bacteria like the microorganism responsible for tuberculosis.
This is why N95 masks have been the main medical supply needed in healthcare centers this year. They offer the highest level of protection that can come from a face mask, and healthcare providers are constantly in situations of high risk of exposure and infection. For virus protection, N95 masks have the highest antiviral properties and are considered the best option for healthcare settings. They’re often used by healthcare providers with goggles or face shields for eye protection, and some of the most used models are 3M N95 masks, like the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511 models.
N95 respirators offer more protection than reusable cloth masks, but they’re also much more effective for viruses than surgical or medical masks. KN95 masks are often believed to be the same as N95 masks, but this is technically not true. The former are manufactured following the filtration standard used in China, while the latter follows the standard set by NIOSH, which is used in the USA. However, KN95 masks have pretty much the same properties as N95 masks and are generally considered to be interchangeable. Likewise, FFP2 respirators would be the equivalent to these masks under the European filtration standard.
For the reasons listed above, we want to end this informative article reminding our readers to wear their face masks and practice social distancing and hygiene.