Important Questions on N-95 Masks: We should use it or not?  

N95 masks with valves can make nearby people vulnerable to COVID-19

When coronavirus first entered India in early March in India, we were not much aware of it. Gradually with researches and studies, doctors and scientists started to understand the virus but still, a lot is unknown about the deadly virus. Then, it was said that N95 mask in necessary and the normal mask won’t work. Later, it was said that any mask or even a piece of cloth which can cover the nose and mouth can prevent the virus to enter inside a human body.

Now, a debate has been evoked after the Union Home ministry warned against the usage of N95 masks with valved respirators. Valved respirators are basically the raised plastic disk which is embedded in the fibre.

You must be baffled whether to wear it or not? All these days you were wearing N95 masks with valves, and now, the government is saying not to use it. Well, when there is uncertainty about everything, it is important to follow instructions by the government.

You can use home-made face masks or coverings of cloth. Prefer cotton clothes which can be easily fastened and tied over the mouth and nose. The WHO (World Health Organization) had advised in June that common people who haven’t contracted the infection should use non-medical, fabric masks which have at least three layers of different materials. After all, we have to save medical masks for health professionals. But people who are coronavirus positive, or have symptoms should use a medical mask.

Understanding the whole N95 mask uproar

The Director-General of Health Ministry, Dr Rajiv Garg in a letter to all the states and the Union Territories said that N95 masks with valved respirators do not prevent the COVID-19 from spreading.  It also said that the use of valved respirator N95 masks is dangerous to the norms of the coronavirus containment plan.  Not just the Indian government, San Francisco Department of Public Health also raised this concern in May saying that masks with the valves or openings on the front are not safe.

Read more: Update on COVID 19 Vaccine: Where does India stand?

N95 masks protect a person from airborne particles and liquid contaminating the person’s face. They are said to have the highest level of protection against the airborne infections, but still have some limitations. N95 masks are designed to prevent the particles smaller than 300 nanometers and coronavirus size is in the range of 65-125 nm.

What is wrong with N95 mask valves?

The Indian government issued warning for N95 masks who have valves in them. Valves are used to filter the air inhaled by the person by blocking the entry of pathogens suspended in the air. Valves are put in the mask for the convenience of the wearer as it allows easier exhalation, prevent humidity, reduce carbon dioxide and heat buildup in the mask.

Health Ministry stated that N95 masks with valved respirators don’t stop the virus from coming out of the mask. Basically, valves are only a ‘one-way valve’ which only protects the person who is wearing it and doesn’t filter the aerosols coming out of it. This means an asymptomatic COVID-19 infected person can easily spread the infection when he goes closer to someone who is not wearing a mask. The exhaled air passes unfiltered into the environment which may possibly take COVID-19 droplets along with it.

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