In a recent development, the Government has warned all states and union territories against the use of N95 face masks with valved respirator by people. It has claimed that the specified N95 face masks do not prevent the virus from spreading out. In fact, they are “detrimental” to the measures adopted for containment of the ongoing pandemic.
Ministry of Health’s Director-General of Health Services (DGHS), in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, mentioned that there is “inappropriate use” of N95 face masks, particularly those with the valved respirator. He added that the masks should be used for designated health workers only and not by the general public.
“It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks,” DGHS Rajiv Garg wrote in his letter.
What are N95 face masks?
The N95 face mask is personal protective equipment (PPE) used to prevent the wearer from airborne particles and liquid contaminating the face. They filter out 95% of the airborne particles as they seal the nose and mouth.
Albeit, the N95 face masks with a valve should be avoided as it might be a ‘one-way valve’. In such cases, the ‘one-way valve’ does not filter aerosols coming out of your mouth. Hence, they put those around you at risk. Only N95 face masks with a ‘two-way valve’ should be ideally used.
Which masks to use if not N95?
In April this year, the government had issues an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth. It said that the colour of the fabric does not matter but it should be washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before using it to make a face mask. Also, adding salt to this water is recommended.
In fact, homemade masks should be ensured that they fit the face well and there are no gaps on the sides. The advisory also stated that people should wash their hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover and never reuse the mask after a single use without cleaning it.