The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than a million people all over the world. It has affected businesses, led to quarantines and lockdowns, and changed the way we live. The latest variant discovered in the UK shows that the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight. What you can do to protect from the virus is to continue practicing safety measures such as using a face mask.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets that are released when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. In order to prevent these droplets from entering your mouth or nose, you have to wear an N95 mask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the general public should use a cloth mask instead of an N95 mask. By using a cloth mask, healthcare workers and other medical frontline workers will have an adequate supply of N95 masks when they need them.
Then again, not everyone feels safe with a cloth mask. A lot of people feel that a cloth mask does not provide enough protection. Only an N95 mask gives them peace of mind that their face mask can filter out SARS-CoV-2.
Features of the N95 mask
An N95 mask is not like your typical cloth mask or surgical mask. An N95 mask is considered a respiratory protective device as it offers protection from tiny particles that may suspend in the air for hours. An N95 mask has a filter rate of at least 95 percent.
The facepiece of an N95 mask comes with a filter material that blocks airborne particles. As for some N95 mask models, the whole facepiece is made of filter material.
An N95 mask provides a close facial fit that prevents air leakages and particulate matter from entering through the sides of the mask. Its edges create an air seal when properly fitted.
Before using an N95 mask, one must pass a fit test to ensure sufficient protection. Without a fit test, there is no assurance that your N95 mask will maintain a filter efficiency of 95 percent.
Who should not wear an N95 mask
Although an N95 mask seems to be the best choice to protect from the coronavirus, some people should not use it. Those that have health conditions must seek the advice of their doctor before using an N95 mask. The N95 mask has a tight fit and may cause breathing problems especially among individuals that have existing medical issues.
If an N95 mask makes breathing difficult or you are not comfortable wearing one, look for a different face mask. You may use a cloth mask as advised by the CDC or a surgical mask instead. These cheaper alternatives are easier to find than an N95 mask and still protect you from the virus.
Additionally, children and individuals with facial hair should not use an N95 mask. The N95 mask has to create a good seal on the face, and this is difficult to achieve for kids and individuals with lots of facial hair.
Those who do not pass a fit test should not use an N95 mask too. It is wrong to believe that wearing an N95 mask automatically protects you from the virus. An N95 mask can only do its job if it is properly fitted. Choose a different model or size and do a fit test until you find the perfect one.
Countries that are experiencing N95 mask shortages
Some countries are doing worse than others in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These countries experienced an N95 mask shortage due to high demand from healthcare workers looking after numerous COVID-19 patients.
The situation was worse when the pandemic started. By now, production has picked up and N95 mask manufacturers are starting to keep up with the demand both from healthcare sectors and private citizens.
The United States had an N95 mask shortage at the start of the pandemic. Now N95 mask manufacturers have increased their efforts to produce enough N95 masks. Also, some hospitals currently use decontamination equipment to disinfect N95 masks for them to be reused.
Countries like Russia, South Korea, and the Czech Republic banned exports of N95 masks to prevent a further shortage. Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Kazakhstan likewise announced export bans on face masks.
Other countries like Japan, Switzerland, and Germany also experienced a shortage of N95 masks. Doctors in Japan were once told to reuse their N95 masks due to lack of supply.
Many other countries are experiencing N95 mask shortages and have sought help. The World Health Organization shipped face masks and other supplies to Iran, Uganda, and Cambodia to deal with the shortage.
Half of the world’s face masks are made in China. When the COVID-19 outbreak happened in China, domestic demand for N95 masks surged. Similarly, the global supply of N95 masks was disrupted, leading to a shortage of N95 masks in many countries around the world.
The shortage of N95 masks is one of the biggest challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to increase their production and meet the demand for N95 masks and other PPEs.
You can help out by conserving your face masks and using them only when necessary. By staying at home, you won’t need to use an N95 mask at all.
Even if vaccines have been rolled out and injections are being given on a daily basis, we don’t know when this pandemic will end. Be responsible for using your face mask and do your part in stopping the spread of the virus.