SOURCE: www.slate.com/id/2081235/

Do Surgical Masks Stop SARS?
By Jon Cohen
Posted Monday, April 7, 2003, at 5:41 PM ET

Masks: a poor prophylactic
The dramatic photos of surgical-masked people walking the streets of Asian cities hit by severe acute respiratory syndrome pose the question: Do the masks offer them any meaningful protection against the disease?

Viruses, including the coronavirus that scientists believe may be the cause of SARS, are so tiny that they can easily pass through such barriers. Several studies even have shown that surgical masks fail to prevent transmission of the much larger mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people who have SARS wear these masks, they do not even recommend them for people in contact with those patients unless the infected person can't wear one. Wearing surgical masks outdoors, where virus-laden particles easily disperse, has even less value.

CDC does advise health-care workers working with SARS patients to wear a special mask called an N-95 respirator. But even these masks offer limited protection from coronaviruses. The name of the mask says it all. The "95" means the mask, if properly fitted—and that "fit factor" presents a big if—can filter out particles down to .3 microns 95 percent of the time. (A human hair is roughly 100 microns in diameter.) Human coronaviruses measure between .1 and .2 microns, which is one to two times below the cutoff.

The University of Cincinnati's Sergey Grinshpun has studied N-95 respirators and says it all comes down to "collection efficiency." N-95s made by different manufacturers have different collection efficiencies below the .3 cutoff. In other words, one company's mask, if properly fitted, might filter out 92 percent of coronaviruses, while another might catch only 50 percent.

"It seems to offer better protection than nothing," Grinshpun says. And he notes that viruses often travel on top of larger carrier molecules—like globs of mucus—making it easier to filter them. That's why CDC Director Julie Gerberding last week noted that covering your face with a T-shirt might help if you come in close contact with an infected person.

To efficiently protect yourself from coronaviruses, you would need to wear a full-faced mask with a high-efficiency particle air filter. But such HEPA filter masks cause what Grinshpun calls "quite a discomfort" in short order.

Any mask clearly wards off one bug: fear. Confoundingly, the sight of so many people wearing masks also spreads fear. And there's no measure of collection efficiency or fit factors that can help humans out of that pickle.


SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surgical_mask

Simple surgical masks can reduce the spread of bacteria in aerosols. Apart from protecting the wearer from splashes in the mouth with body fluids, they are intended to protect others from the wearer's oral and nasal bacteria. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaled particles.

Viral particles are far too small to be effectively filtered by the fibres of a regular surgical mask. Thus, a mask wearer would not be less likely to catch a viral disease than someone not wearing a mask. However, an already infected person wearing a mask may slightly reduce his chances of infecting others, as it may catch droplets of fluid expelled during sneeze or cough.

The NIOSH N95 standard mask is able to protect the wearer from viral particles in aerosols and airborne liquid droplets. Another benefit of masks, even ones permeable to viruses, is to remind the wearer not to touch his face. Direct skin contact after touching a surface with viruses on it (termed a fomite) may transfer viruses which are not typically airborne.

A surgical mask will trap some particles but is much less effective than a mask designed for this purpose.


Re group specials: please note we must have six of most items to get the discount, but TWELVE of the masks. This is an especially good buy (about 50cents per mask) so I encourage orders. Brother Vail has given information regarding them and the flu, but I wish to remind you that they have other uses as well. I'm taking the CERTS training and they STRONGLY require masks when going among any kind of disaster....especially fires, earthquakes, tsunami, etc. Also, in case of a volcanic eruption, it will be VERY nice to have these masks! :) Sooooo, I hope ten more people will order them. We have two ordered now.

Loa Anderson (from her news letter)


SOURCE: www.fda.gov/cdrh/ppe/masksrespirators.html

Find all FDA-cleared surgical masks and surgical N95 respirators. The FDA’s website lets you search for medical devices that FDA has cleared or approved, including personal protective equipment.

Search for all FDA-cleared surgical masks

Search for all FDA-cleared surgical N95 respirators




Co-op member in put:

Hi, Cordell, interesting stuff, if a little disappointing that they don't protect better from the viruses, but I thought the reason we wanted to have masks in our emergency preparedness stuff was to filter out dust when we need to clear out buildings or digging for people trapped and that sort of stuff. The same reason we want to be sure to have a good pair of work gloves and sturdy shoes handy. Tony always had some masks on hand when we were helping him in his cabinet shop to use when there was lots of sawdust. Funny I wasn't even thinking of protection from viruses!

Susan Call


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If you are ever going to buy Medical Masks... this is the time to do it. The Wollochet Co-op is buying medical masks this time and they are so inexpensive I can hardly believe it. I checked at the drug store today and masks that are not even the N95's are $6 for 5 masks. Here is what the special is from EE if you want to join in with Loa's group this month and get your supply.... $10 for 20 - N95 masks WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :

Don't miss out on this sale. You won't see those prices on N95 medical masks again I am sure!!!!!

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