The Use of Respirators to Reduce Inhalation of Airborne Biological Agents

Respiratory protection devices are an important element of an overall contagion control strategy when infectious biological aerosols are potentially present in an occupational environment. In health care facilities, N95 class FFR certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are typically the minimum class of respiratory protection recommended. In contrast, studies exist that suggest that surgical masks normally used in health care settings may be equally effective in reducing disease transmission. The “respirator versus surgical mask” debate continues in both health care and non-health care settings.
This article describes and evaluates the findings of recent studies examining the role of respirators and surgical masks in reducing disease transmission. Established principles of evaluating respiratory protective device performance are used to explain inconclusive results. This article also makes recommendations to maximize respiratory protection from biological aerosols.

Source : Janssen L, Ettinger H, Graham S, Shaffer R, Zhuang Z. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2013 Aug;10(8):D97-D103.

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