A recent study found that utilizing fit-tested N95 masks inside in conjunction with a HEPA air filter system dramatically lowers the risk of COVID-19 infections for frontline health workers, according to experts.
The research found that infectious virus-laden aerosols may spread across great distances for extended periods of time.
The goal of this study, according to study co-author Shane Landry, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Sleep & Circadian Medicine Laboratory, Department of Physiology, Biomedical Discovery Institute (BDI), at Monash University, was to better understand how well-known personal protective equipment (PPE) shields healthcare workers from COVID-19 airborne transmission and to determine whether the use of portable air purifiers can supplement these safeguards. Click here to read more about A starting guide to using N95 masks.
Front-line healthcare personnel is susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. According to the WHO’s projections, between January 2020 and May 2021, around 115,500 healthcare professionals perished from COVID-19, Landry told us.
Three different masks were examined by researchers
Even healthcare workers (HCWs) caring for patients not undergoing aerosol-generating operations contracted COVID-19 despite wearing surgical masks and PPE, according to a study by Landry and colleagues.
They evaluated the level of personal contamination with viral aerosol while wearing several kinds of N95 masks using a non-hazardous virus:
- N95 that was ill-fitting and failed fit testing
- N95 that was fitting and passed fit testing together with a face shield, gown, and disposable gloves
They also examined whether a portable HEPA filter improved the effectiveness of PPE to shield wearers from the spread of airborne diseases.
Only the fit-tested N95 masks had lower virus levels than the control group, according to the data. Additionally, they discovered that using a fitting N95 mask together with HEPA filtration and other PPE equipment could reduce virus exposure to almost nothing.
The most critical element is mask fit
Landry said that the results didn’t surprise him.
He said that because surgical N95 masks are not intended to seal, the presence of viruses was not unexpected.
He emphasized that they anticipated the poorly fitting N95 to fail the challenge since it had failed a fit test.
According to Landry, “the seal (how well it fits) is often the most crucial component in mask protection since our well-fitted (passed fit-test) N95 gave the best protection.” Probably more significant than the mask medium’s filtering capabilities.
He noted that a multi-layered strategy for safety measures against COVID-19 infection is “strongly endorsed” by these results.
What environments provide a high risk of COVID infection?
According to Peter Pitts, head of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former assistant commissioner at the FDA, any situation where there are several persons who may come from regions with a high infection rate and low vaccination rates might be deemed high risk.
He said, “By this, I mean places that bring people from diverse places together, such as public transit, sporting events, venues, and… hospitals.
If you’re immunized and not at high risk for “severe” COVID-19, Pitts said, you should be mindful of your surroundings and make your own risk/benefit assessments.
In terms of the danger of contracting an illness, Pitts said that hospital institutions are among the safest locations to be.
He said, “They have great ventilation and social separation techniques. They are also well aware of the necessity to safeguard staff members and patients at high risk from COVID-19 infection.
The greatest danger is in enclosed areas with inadequate ventilation
According to Dr. Robert G. Lahita, director of the Saint Joseph Health Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease and author of “Immunity Strong,” COVID-19 infection is more likely in enclosed settings with insufficient ventilation.
He gave an example of a wedding as a warning. Seventy percent of the attendees at a wedding that one of my nurses attended contracted the disease.
Lahita suggested that those who travel should use N95 masks, adding that the adoption of HEPA filters on airplanes significantly lowers danger.
The majority of aerosol COVID transmission in a healthcare setting occurs under “specific scenarios,” according to Charles Bailey, MD, medical director for infection prevention at Providence Mission Hospital and Providence at St. Joseph Hospital. However, droplet transmission is by far the most typical method of transmission.
With the probable exception of those who are highly immunosuppressed, as least as far as the general public is concerned,” stated Bailey. “A well-fitting medical-grade mask is sufficient, or at the very least, a plain, unadulterated N95.” You can also read about The role of face coverings in mitigating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus: a statement from the Respiratory Evidence Panel by visiting https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-and-covid-19-statement-from-an-expert-panel/the-role-of-face-coverings-in-mitigating-the-transmission-of-sars-cov-2-virus-statement-from-the-respiratory-evidence-panel
‘Normal conditions’ are not represented in the study
The University of California San Francisco’s Monica Gandhi, MD, professor of medicine, claims that this research does not accurately reflect the typical circumstances in which individuals are typically exposed to virus particles.
Cloth and surgical N95 masks are ineffective in stopping the spread of viruses, according to mounting research, she added.
N95 masks without fit testing nevertheless provide some protection, despite this.
She affirmed that one-way protection is offered by “fit and filtered N95 masks,” such as N95 or KN95.
Public health authorities may advise one-way masking for self-protection at this stage of the epidemic, according to Gandhi. But should stress that filtered, well-fitting N95 masks are the most effective.
According to a recent study, PPE, such as properly fitted N95 masks and HEPA air filtration, is the most effective way to stop the indoor aerosol transmission of COVID-19 in high-risk environments.
According to experts, the most crucial aspect of your protection is how well your mask fits.
Additionally, they claim that the most effective N95 masks are well-fitting, filtered masks, and that one-way masking should be advised for self-protection at this stage of the pandemic.