HOUSTON – The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention issued a warning of possible coronavirus outbreaks in the United States leading some Houstonians to scramble through medical supplies stores and websites in search of respiratory masks to protect themselves.
But, at this time, the CDC is only recommending those ill with the virus and healthcare workers or people caring for them to wear respirator masks because transmission in the U.S. is low and there is no active transmission among communities.
The CDC also stressed that protective equipment is only one factor in protecting yourself and recommends the general public to follow preventative actions such as washing their hands thoroughly, covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth and avoiding sick people.
Here is what you need to know about respirator masks and their effectiveness to protect against COVID-19:
What is a respirator mask?
A respirator is a personal protective device that covers the nose and mouth to reduce the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles, according to the CDC.
What’s the most effective respirator mask?
The most effective respirator is the N95 as it filters out at least 95% of very small particles including bacteria and viruses, according to the CDC.
Can I wear a surgical mask instead?
Most surgical masks do not effectively filter small particles from the air. They are loose-fitting and provide only barrier protection against droplets, splashes or sprays of bodily fluids and large respiratory particles, according to the CDC.
To view an infographic of the difference between a surgical mask and a respirator, click here.
How often should respirator masks be switched out?
The CDC recommends healthcare workers to discard them after each patient encounter.
Respirator masks and facial hair
There are certain facial hair styles that may interfere with the effectiveness in protection against the coronavirus while wearing respirators. To learn which are OK and which must be shaved, click here.
Other effective respirator masks
Other respirator masks approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health include N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99 and R100, according to the CDC.
Alternatives to respirators masks
The CDC recommends health care professionals to use elastomeric half-masks, full facepiece air purifying respirators and powered air purifying respirators when feasible.
Find respirator masks in Houston
To find a list of medical supply stores selling N95 respirators and their availability click here.