Protection Against the Omicron Variant by N95 and Cotton Masks

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The masks should also have at least two layers, a nose wire or grip and be well-fitted, she added. The experts say about the levels of protection provided by masks, especially cloth masks, after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week updated its mask guidelines.

N95 masks, so named as they can filter out 95% of all airborne particles when used correctly, offer the best protection against COVID-19, and “loosely woven cloth coverings” offer the least protection, as mentioned in the updated mask guidances, while stressing the importance of a good fit. They, typically worn by medical professionals, remove respiratory droplets and smaller aerosol particles when they were properly worn. The Chinese version of N95 masks (KN95 masks) are working fine just as a N95 mask.

“While N95/KN95 disposable masks are more effective than cloth, given the current situation in Singapore with high vaccination and strong health system, the added cost may not provide much value for most Singaporeans,” said Prof. Howard.

It should be noted that the cotton masks frequently worn by Americans do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or N95 masks. Studies from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have indicated that the surgical mask blocked 59% of respiratory aerosols from a cough, whereas a three-layer cotton mask blocked 51% of these aerosols, compared to an N95 mask which blocked up to 95% of the aerosols.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to “wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.” Having understood the benefits, it should also be considered that the right manner of usage for respirators. Masks should be worn cautiously, when outdoors or overcrowded indoors, being sure that it should cover the nose and the mouth, and minimizes any gaps. If you are wearing a FFP2 or N95 mask, double masking must be avoided. Or else, one can look at wearing a multi-layered N95 mask that uses an advanced five-layer filtration system with electrostatically charged melt-blown filters, which enhances its filtering ability.

Also, hand hygiene has also come into picture before wearing a mask and after removing it, and it should always dispose responsibly as per instructions on pack. This not only acts as a preventive facial respirator, but also becomes an important aspect towards a healthy lifestyle.

Before wearing masks, we have to:

  • Ensure hand-hygiene before wearing and after removing mask
  • Ensure best fit and tight seal for full protection — with no gaps along the sides
  • Ensure coverage from the ridge of your nose down to under your chin
  • Avoid repeatedly touching or adjusting your mask
  • Source: Medindia

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