A contagious patient should wear a surgical mask as soon as contagion is suspected.
In Europe, for caregivers, it is necessary to wear a respirator of at least class FFP2 or FFP3 for maximum filtration of particles and aerosols when caring for a patient who is infected or suspected of being so.
In the United States, the N95 respirator filters 95% of airborne particles, and can even filter out bacteria and viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So for caregivers, it is necessary to wear a respirator of class N, R or P.
Should a Disposable or Reusable Mask be Used?
Surgical masks are disposable medical devices that must be disposed of in the appropriate manner after use. Respirators (FFP / N, R or P) can be disposable or reusable. In the second case, it is possible to replace the filter when it is full.
The effective life of a surgical mask or a respirator is indicated by the manufacturer. It varies according to use. Generally speaking, it can range from three to eight hours depending on the concentration of the contaminant and a series of external factors such as air humidity, temperature, volume of air breathed in, etc. Wearing face shields over face masks can prolong mask life. Face shields can also be easily washed and disinfected.
For respirators equipped with gas filters, if the wearer begins to perceive the smell of gas, he or she must immediately leave the work area and replace the filter. Similarly in the case of dust filters, if the wearer begins to perceive an increase in inspiratory effort, he or she should leave the premises and replace the filter. These masks are mainly worn by people working in contact with chemicals or by firefighters.
The New Barrier Mask
The shortage of FFP2 and surgical masks has fueled an increase in patterns and tutorials for making protective masks. A new type of protective mask has recently appeared and has been approved by certification organization AFNOR. The “barrier mask” is meant to be worn by healthy people. AFNOR has produced a reference document with the requirements to be satisfied when making these new barrier masks. This AFNOR Spec–Barrier masks document can be downloaded online free of charge.
The requirements for barrier masks are less ambitious than those for FFP2 and surgical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare professionals and other people at risk of exposure. Barrier masks meet a set of criteria endorsed by 150 experts and are aimed at providing all healthy people with further protection, in addition to good hygiene practices and social distancing. Textile and plastics companies can use the document to mass-produce these masks. The document’s appendix includes a list of laboratories (list to be complemented by the AFNOR website) for companies wishing to test their prototypes before going ahead with mass production. The document is also intended to offer guidance to all those with the necessary materials and craftsmanship to make masks by themselves. It contains a number of diagrams, as well as ready-to-use patterns.
Since it was made available in French on 27 March 2020, the barrier mask model has been downloaded nearly 100,000 times, by a variety of profiles: manufacturers capable of launching mass production, craftsmen, private individuals who are adept at “Do it yourself,” or local authorities for their staff.
The Covid-19 pandemic being worldwide, the model of barrier mask is now available in several languages. Spain, which has been hit hard by the virus, now has its version in Castilian. Versions in German, Russian and Chinese are also expected in the coming days. At the same time, the document has been circulated within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO); international NGOs are also analyzing the document in order to include it in their datasheets, particularly in the framework of their actions in favor of developing countries.