When in contact with COVID infected person how protective are N95 masks?

The coronavirus is spreading like wildfire and you can probably contact an infected person. Thus in such a case a N95 mask can prove its might.

The cases of COVID-19 cases increased with people starting to move out. The infection spread like wildfire and many were engulfed in its ruthless attack. The ones who also suffered from mild symptoms were to maintain severe isolation  and did need extreme care. The caretakers or the doctors need to monitor them and they are persistent in the fear of getting infected. Also, if we discuss the cases of severe infection then no words will be enough to appreciate the efforts made by the doctors, nurses, and the emergency responders. Thus no matter what the level of severity is the people around an infected person fall in the high risk category.  Coming to the fact that life goes on and we all need to brave ourselves and move out, but maintaining precaution is crucial. Maintaining six feet distance, wearing masks, applying sanitizers, using wipes, following protocol of self-isolation if feeling sick, was required. Coming to the masks, they went scarce. Of all the things it was the N95 masks that were in high demand but low supply. The cloth masks meant for the general public were widely available and even if not available it could have been made at home without much effort.

Let us know how the N95 mask works?

 N95 masks are a FDA and NIOSH approved mask for use by medical experts. The N95 respirator is a double strap, flat folded filtering facepiece respirator. It has multiple layers of non-woven fabric. The filtration layer provides a barrier to particles of various sizes through mechanical entrapment in a tortuous pathway by the surface attraction of electrostatic force. The outermost layer is coated to capture and inactivate viruses. The non-woven fabric is ultrasonically sealed together at the outer perimeter. The pair of elastic strips are stapled or welded to the edge of the respirator and prevent the mask from falling off the face of the wearer.  FDA recommends the N95 mask being a single-use mask; it is a respirator coated with virucoat on the outer layer and is not an antiviral drug. FDA elaborates that the N95 mask has the same filtering and barrier properties as the predicate device. 

Why is N95 masks considered protective when in contact with the COVID-19 patients? 

It has been proven that the two ways of transmission of the COVID-19 virus are respiratory droplets and contact. Respiratory droplets are released in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The person who comes in close contact (within 1m) with the person is at the risk of being potentially exposed to the infective respiratory droplet. Droplets can fall on the surface and the surface gets infected. If one touches the surface while the virus(within 36 hours)  is viable then the person can get infected. The incubation period for COVID-19 which is the time when there is exposure to the virus and symptom onset is on an average 5to 6 days but can last as long as 14 days. The pre-symptomatic period (as referred medically) the infected person can be contagious and transfer virus to other people. It has been observed that a person can be tested positive for the disease even before the symptoms are actually seen in the patient. The chances that the infected person can transfer the virus even before they are actually tested positive for the virus. Thus it is feasible that people are wearing masks or specifically the N95 masks in case of medical settings to stay protected.

The WHO thus highly recommends that the health care workers should wear N95 masks when entering the room that has patients suspected or confirmed with COVID-19. The N95  masks are 95% effective in filtering the virus or any other airborne particles. It is highly recommended that the particulate respirator uses a protective as a US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certified N95, European Union Standard FFP2, or a similar status N95 when performing or working in the settings where there are aerosol generating procedures occurring. Situations like non-invasive ventilation, tracheotomy, manual ventilation before intubation, bronchoscopy being performed, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, tracheal intubation being performed come in the category of high risk zones and thus an N95 mask is a compulsion here. Several masks are available in the market but one has to be careful while selecting the mask. The mask should fit aptly and for this the wearer should undergo a fit test before buying the mask. The N95 mask is a tight fitted mask and if it doesn’t fit well then the function of the mask is not served. 

It is evident from all the tests that the N95 masks are the most effective masks. But there are few conditions or mask management that needs to be followed so that the N95 masks serve the purpose that it intends to. Firstly buy the mask from an NIOSH approved seller or dealer. The market is flooded with fake N95 masks that are of no use., if you wear a fake mask then the very purpose of the N95 mask is not met. Check the mask for prerequisites like it has NIOSH written on it and has a lot number, and other details on it. Also, apart from using the mask the wearer should not touch eyes and nose. The mask should cover the face from nose to chin and the eyes should also be covered. N95 masks are the most effective mask and present least breathing resilience thus they can be safely used for long hours without any difficulty.

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