Graphic: A detailed look at masks

By Reuters Staff
April 30, 2009

20 comments

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so basically many people are making the mistake of using masks and not respirators? where can the respirators be bought?

Posted by Edgardo | Report as abusive

Many people feel safe wearing flimsy face masks with a filter value of perhaps 15 minutes.My question is: How good is even a respirator if sneeze or cough droplets go in your eyes? Is that possible?

Whew! If it wasn’t for this diagram and detailed instruction I don’t think I ever would have figured out where to put the mask on my body and how to do it. Now I know it is not as efficacious strapped around my chest.

Posted by Alogon | Report as abusive

Respirattors can be bought at any hardware store. Make sure you get a bio filter(charcoal) if possible piggyback it with a HEPA filter.An Asbestos supply company can give you the best information on masks and there uses.A phyical is recommend before wearing a tightfitting face piece.And yes the eye are an entry into the body,a full face respirator offers more protection but are very expensive.Good luck folks viruses have many entry point into the body.(you have to take that mask off)and if you don’t scrub your hand like a surgeon your screwed

Posted by kevin | Report as abusive

You need about 18 months supply, for everyone in your family. LOL N95 rated masks, safety goggles because any infected water droplets in your eyes will give you a FLU because it’s part of your nervous system. Then you need to wash your hands often, or use hand sanitizer. Vinyl gloves because a FLU virus passes through the hands too! Any contaminated surface, could hold the FLU virus for up to two days! So we are kind of ‘screwed’ to begin with. A cheaper way, it to use hand sanitizer often, and MAKE sure no one sneezes or coughs near you. Good luck!

Posted by bugstomper | Report as abusive

Great selection and proper fitting guide! This is the most accurate information regarding flu masks I have seen yet.

There is so much misinformation out there.The most important thing that people need to know is that hand sanitizers are largely INEFFECTIVE at preventing the flu. Hand washing is far more effective. The problem is not that people will be more susceptible to the flu after using hand sanitizers and ill-fitting masks, but that they will THINK that they have taken all of the precautions they need to. This leads to careless behavior in terms of human contact or touching your eyes etc..Avoid crowds, WASH your hands for an extended period (the scrubbing motion alone does more than most alcohol-based sanitizers, and the soap is very effective), and if you must be in a confined space such as an airplane, wear an N95 respirator. But be aware, some N95 respirators come affixed with an exhalation valve – this is BAD – because if you already have the flu you’ll be spreading it to others, even with the mask on. Exhalation valves were meant for workers who wear the masks for long hours in their occupation and should only be used by those who KNOW they don’t have the flu (and you can’t really be sure). (if you don’t see something that clearly looks like a round plastic valve on the front of your mask then don’t worry about it.)But don’t take my word for it, do a little research before you stock up on masks and purel. The truth is out there, and a little knowledge is your best flu defense.

Posted by Carl | Report as abusive

i was thinking of designing facemasks …just having happy and bright exciting prints on masks so that they do not spread their dowdyness in an already scary and depressing flu time. Especially for the people concious of wearing boring things on their face. Just wanted to know will tightly woven cotton or synthetic fabric be good in constructing masks?

I am shocked Reuters would publish such utterly FALSE information. N95 masks are good for ONE USE ONLY.Unless TAPED to the FACE they are utterly useless, as any gap whatsoever will allow various particles to enter the airways.. Have you EVER seen these with an airtight seal?Alos airborne viruses are capable of penetrating the human body at any of the mucous membranes, not just the mouth and nose. This includes the EYES and the EARS.

Posted by Dr. Asa Hersh | Report as abusive

Some interesting, some useful and some useless information here.If someone sneezes and a droplet containing virus hits your eyes, or if you pick up a cup that has been touched by a person who coughed into their hand, then pick up a doughnut and eat it, yes you can get the flu. It is doubtful that you can get the flu via the ears, the tympanic membrane is not a mucuous membrane, and will stop entry of virus particles unless ruptured and the ear canal is lined with antibiotic cerumen (earwax).Tightly woven homemade masks might do some to prevent the spread of droplets from you to others but will do nothing to prevent the inhalation of minute particles being inhaled. Most fabrics are like putting up a picket fence to stop flies. However air droplets from a cough rarely travel more than three or four feet and never beyond 6′ so keep 6′ away from others who you think might be infected (if you can). Simply maintaining a 6′ distance from a cougher is protection.Alcohol based hand cleaners ARE effective. So is washing for 60 seconds with soap and warm water. Washing too frequently, and too aggressively is likely to create contact dermatitis (tiny cracks in the skin) making you more susceptible to infection since these offer many “entry points”. Epidemics have been created within hospital units solely from “over-washing.” Don’t scrub till you see bone.Interesting point about exhalation exits on masks I don’t know about that one. They would be useful for caring for a person closely if the person is infected but you are not. I’ll agree that they are not a good choice for preventing the spread from an infected person to a caretaker.Yes, N95′s can be fitted quite effectively (if the mask will indeed “fit”). To see if yours is fitted properly a) you must have no beard (I once said to a contractor: “is that a butterfly filter? He had quite the bushy beard” and was working with lead dust. b) the mask must be the right size for the face. A standard adult mask will not work on a child. c) Squeeze the aluminum nose piece to shape it to the nose, make sure it fits around the chin, blow in and out, and often you can feel air leakage and then adjust till you cannot, then open a packet of artificial sweeter (aspartame) sprinkle it into the air about a foot or two away. If you can taste the sweetness your mask is leaking, probably around the nose or under the chin. If you cannot taste it it is likely offering you good protection. (N95′s are not “absolute protection). Ideally talk, twist your head up and down, left and right…still no sweet taste and you are good to go.A charcoal filter or cannister is of no use for the flu. That is for organic vapors such as toluene. That filter will not filter particles at all. A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Absolute) (often incorrectly referred to as HEP “Air”) filter, on a fitted half or full face respirator does offer full protection. But remember, if you touch a surface, and scratch itch of the corner of your eye, or pick your nose… bingo, you can become infected. You can also infect yourself while removing the mask.If curious about mask protocol see this site:http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/masks.ht m

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

What this report doesn’t say is FDA has a pending request for Masks and respirators from Noveko International! These Noveko masks have antiveruvial products applied to the layers that destroy viruses,microbes and bacteria!With 30 seconds most are destroyed!30mins it becomes sterile!Reusable and roughly the same price! They could save thousands from being sick and thousands of lives! Why they prefer pressing fastrack for vaccines i can’t understand!This 510k should be rushed extra urgently!

This is misleading. Masks are intended to keep the wearer from transmitting germs via spit, not to keep from getting them. Only airtight masks such as gas masks that form an airtight seal around the face and that have a screw in filter offer real protction from germs. Do you see people at germ lbs walking around in surgical masks.

Posted by rmorte62 | Report as abusive

Wash your hands before donning a respirator. If soap and water isn’t available use alcohol handwash. When doffing your used respirator be careful not to touch your face and eyes. When finished preferably tie it up in a polybag before disposing it in suitable waste container. Then wash your hands immediately. If soap and water isn’t available use alcohol handwash. Failing to wash your hands leaves you vulnerable to indirectly contaminating yourself or others.

Why not just buy full body level 4 contamination suits. With self contained air filters etc and wear it every day all day long? I realize this is expensive but you would be more likely to be ‘safe’. Why not just stay home and not touch anything unless doused in alcohol and bleach to kill bacteria and viruses maybe. . . then you could be helping medical companies and the economy instead of just buying useless crap to throw away and increase pollution in landfills. Come on people wash you hands and don’t share things others use. It would help with diseases spread due to improper or no hand washing most people do at the present. Just my two cents.

Posted by john q public | Report as abusive

Is there any mask available which can be use twice?If available are they safe and recycled?

I have seen so many of these mask articles with varying recommendations and evaluations. Please check out Filligent Bio Mask. This is a very high quality newly designed mask with antiviral properties. It fits extremely well, is easy to talk and breathe through and is reasonable priced.

Actually, since the influenza virus travels mostly in droplet rather than as an independent spore or cyst, masks are still useful even if you can smell scents around them. The better the seal, of course, the lower your risk of sucking a droplet around the mask when you inhale (I’m going to shave if things get bad); vaseline on your face where the mask contacts it helps make a better seal.Social distancing (6 feet or more) is highly effective, as most droplets fall to the ground within that range.Hand washing, however, is *critical* as the virus can live on a hard surface for up to two days. Get out of the habit of touching your face, too, as eyes and mouth are major transmission routes.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

A major transmission vector is those that lick their fingers to flip pages and to open plastic bags (cashiers at stores)

Posted by RSole | Report as abusive

Noveko masks contain Triclosan as the active antimicrobial, a substance well-known to have carcinogenic properties. Triclosan is banned for use in cosmetic products in Canada, yet Noveko wants people to put it on their face! The US FDA has clearly stated in public hearings that such agents will not be allowed in face masks. Noveko also claims approval of its mask by Health Canada. However, Noveko received only a medical establishment license (a license to import medical devices), not approval to distribute a mask with Triclosan. Very recently, the Canadian Medical Association and scientists from Health Canada have lobbied to have Triclosan banned from all use in Canada.

Posted by docxray | Report as abusive

There is a lot more misinformation in this COMMENT section than the article.–”The most important thing that people need to know is that hand sanitizers are largely INEFFECTIVE at preventing the flu”Not true, most of the Purel type alcohol based hand cleaners are extremely effective at killing the virus. Possibly more so since most people do not properly wash their hands.– “N95 masks.. Unless TAPED to the FACE they are utterly useless”Not true, properly fitted N95 masks have a success rate in hospital use approaching 99%. They do not need to be taped to the face. But they are difficult to breath through and uncomfortable to wear.– Masks are intended to keep the wearer from transmitting germs via spit, not to keep from getting them. Only airtight masks such as gas masks that form an airtight seal around the face and that have a screw in filter offer real protction from germs.Not exactly true, mostly the virus is spread through direct contact and droplets spread out during coughing and sneezing. It is rarely aerosolized into the surroundings and has a travel distance of less than a few feet even during a big sneeze. Simple masks are an effective barrier against droplets and do provide a level of protection. Although, it is still in debate over how much protection is provided.

Posted by Health Care Worker | Report as abusive