The coronavirus pandemic has brought to the forefront discussions about medical supplies and personal protective equipment. A lot of us weren’t familiar with these terms, and are now learning what an N95 mask or a face shield is. At the beginning of the year, when panic was taking over the world, a lot of people began to buy these items in bulk and wholesale, but now, they’re very hard to find for sale online.
The question of when they’ll stop being necessary is a very difficult one to ask. Thinking that they won’t be necessary after the pandemic ends is a logical way to think, but this may not be true entirely. We’ll discuss the main aspects of this question in this article.
N95 masks are considered the best disposable face masks for virus protection at the moment, with antiviral properties that make them a better choice than surgical, medical, or reusable cloth masks. Workers can wear face shields over them for increased protection, and some of the most popular models in the United States include the 3M 8511 and the 3M 8210, which are 3M N95 masks.
The name of this respirator is established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH, a federal agency inside the USA that is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their goal is to help prevent work-related injuries or illnesses by making recommendations based on scientific research. As part of their job, they also regulate respirators and test them to certify they meet their standards and criteria for each of the respirator types inside their classification.
The NIOSH classification takes into consideration two characteristics to name respirators:
- Oil-resistance: the first part of the name is a letter, either N, R, or P, meaning that the respirator is non-resistant, resistant, or oil-proof, respectively. According to this, N95 respirators are not resistant to oil.
- Filtration rate: the second part of the name is a number that indicates the percentage of minimum particulate filtration rate, which can be either 95, 99, or 100%. N95 respirators, therefore, filter out 95% of the airborne particles in the air.
This makes N95 masks effective for protection against a wide range of non-oil based airborne particles, meaning that they don’t contain oil and have a diameter of 0.3 micrometers. Such particles can include dust and smoke particles, or viruses like the flu or the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
KN95 masks, often confused with N95 respirators, are regulated under Chinese standards for filtration. However, they can be considered the equivalents to N95 masks, just as FFP2 respirators are the equivalents to N95 respirators under European standards.
COVID-19, which stands for ‘coronavirus disease 2019’, is a new respiratory disease. The first case was reported in December of 2019, and since then, the virus has spread to the rest of the world. The new virus, a species of coronavirus which is a genus that has been known to cause respiratory illnesses in humans, has been called the SARS-CoV-2, meaning ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2’, is still being investigated and is the main focus for scientists at the moment.
The disease is mainly a respiratory illness, with most cases being either asymptomatic or very mild. The most common symptoms reported are fever, dry cough, sore throat, and sometimes muscle pain and the loss of taste and smell. Most of these cases don’t need any treatment, and patients are instructed to just treat the symptoms with over the counter remedies and be isolated until it passes.
But, while most cases are very mild and not concerning, there’s a considerable group of people who develop more severe symptoms. These vulnerable patients include older people, immunocompromised patients, and those with pre-existing conditions like respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and any type of organ failure.
In these people, the virus can cause severe lung damage, leading to the need of using mechanical ventilators for proper oxygenation. The virus can also affect other organs, and cause serious complications like thrombosis, multi-organ failure, and death. And, even though the size of the percentage of these severe cases is relatively small, when a lot of people are infected at the same time, it becomes more concerning, and healthcare centers begin to collapse.
For this reason, anyone who uses face-covering, including young people and kids, is helping their healthcare workers on the frontlines and the vulnerable people inside their communities.
Should they be worn after the pandemic ends?
In general, people outside the medical field or who are not in high-risk situations shouldn’t be using N95 masks in the first place. These are masks reserved for those who need the highest form of virus protection because they’re at high risk of infection due to constant exposure to the virus.
Before the pandemic, N95 masks weren’t a common item around healthcare centers, and professionals usually only wore surgical/medical face masks, considered enough for the majority of the procedures they perform. So, if the pandemic ends, there would be no need for them following that logic.
But, it’s very difficult to determine when the threat of the new coronavirus has ended, so N95 masks should be worn by healthcare providers for as long as this new virus is still a hazard for them at work.
We want to end this informative article by reminding our readers to be safe and protected during these trying times.