Medical masks (e.g. N95) and surgical masks are particularly important for frontline doctors and nurses.
Protecting health-care workers (HCWs) from infection is absolutely crucial to tackling the pandemic effectively. Medical masks are appropriate for most airborne precautions encountered in healthcare facilities (rather than daily use) and there are specific dedicated guidelines and instructions on how to properly wear and fit them.
Surgical masks are primarily designed to protect the environment from the wearer, whereas the respirators are supposed to protect the wearer from the environment. However, these differences may not be clear to non-medical personnel, so here’s a brief description.
Surgical masks, also referred to as face masks or procedure masks, are loose-fitting, soft, pleated, disposable devices that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and the environment.
N95 respirators are protective respiratory devices designed to achieve a very close facial fit that is typically round and designed to form a tight seal around the nose and mouth. It is critical to properly fit and wear N95 respirators for them to work effectively.
Medical masks have been shown to have a protective advantage over surgical masks in laboratory settings. However, there are insufficient data to conclusively determine whether N95 respirators are superior to surgical masks in protecting healthcare workers against transmissible acute respiratory infections in healthcare settings.
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