Updated: Mar 5, 2020
The FDA is weighting in on this very real dilemma hitting the public sphere. The coronavirus is spreading quickly and many consumers are not sure of what to do to avoid the spread.
The big question being asked is whether masks will prevent them from being infected. People have been seen all over the news wearing face masks and even gas masks, making it look like doomsday. However, this hype may not be necessary to prevent the disease from spreading.
Surgical Mask vs. N95 respirators
N95 respirators and surgical masks are used by professional health care personnel to help prevent exposure to airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face. The FDA regulates both, surgical masks and N95 respirators differently based on their use, and are labeled as "Single-use".
Surgical masks are loose-fitting and protect from contaminants in the immediate environment, but do not block small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or certain medical procedures. Thus, they are not recommended for use by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) to help prevent diseases such as the Corona Virus (COVID-19). According to the agency, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus.
An N95 respirator is a protective device that is closely fitted and blocks 95 percent of small particles. Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and chances of exposure to airborne particles are low. It is not recommended for people with chronic respiratory diseases to use the N95 respirator since it can become difficult to breathe in.
Additionally, healthcare workers in need of these masks will have limited options if the public begins purchasing them en masse.
According to the CDC, there are other prevention methods to avoid exposure to the Corona Virus (COVID-19) such as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, cover your cough and sneeze with tissue paper, and then throwing the tissue in the trash.
The final word is that there are other ways to protect against Corona Virus and utilizing masks is not the best option.
For additional differences between surgical masks and N95 respirators, please see CDC’s infographic.