N-95 Respirators and Surgical Masks

With the advent of a novel H1N1 influenza outbreak in spring 2009 and the expectation of a second wave during the 2009–2010 flu season, there has been considerable interest in the use of surgical masks (facemasks) and respirators as infection control measures. Although their appearance is often similar, respirators are designed and engineered for distinctly different functions than surgical masks. The amount of exposure reduction offered by respirators and surgical masks differs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of a NIOSH-certified N-95 or better respirator for the protection of healthcare workers who come in direct contact with patients with H1N1. The CDC guidance can be found in Interim Guidance on Infection Control Measures for 2009 H1N1 Influenza in Healthcare Settings. In September 2009 the Institute of Medicine released a report "Respiratory Protection for Healthcare Workers in the Workplace Against Novel H1N1 Influenza A" that also recommends N-95 respirators for the protection of healthcare workers from H1N1. This blog examines the scientific principles behind the design and performance of surgical masks and respirators. Although these principles apply to all particulate respirators, the discussion presented in this article is focused on the most frequently used respirator in healthcare settings, the N-95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR).

Source: hthttp://www.cdc.gov/niosh/blog/nsb101409_respirator.html

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