I’m getting fitted for one of these on Tuesday. Ostensibly as a prep for possible ECMO cases that might come down the pipeline.
Watching a few discussions regarding this strategy and reconciling that with my previous experiences with ICU respiratory isolation cases- (H1N1) makes me realize that efficacy of this strategy is incumbent on basic measures that are good in theory- but useless in practice.
This protection protocol sounds better than it really is.
Please understand that a virus will expose the weakest and most opportunistic avenue for any port of entry directly to your respiratory tract.
We have busy hands- that will ultimately touch- readjust- or remove and replace the mask for a better fitting or re-positioning. Those acts alone obviate the entire sterility/non-infectious protocol that we are trying to adhere to. As well- traffic in and out of the particular ICU room for any patient this sick- will in and of itself- promote further distribution of this virus to other areas within the hospital.
I have 40 years of watching sterile protocol and am geared to see breaks in the process. In the operating room- we are recognize sterile breaches like stink on shit- we all know when a breach happens. This is NOT the case for sterile technique applied to non-surgical settings.
Yeah it’s cool to watch someone Gown up- and Glove up when they are in an isolation room. that all goes out of the window the second you see them touch any of a million possible unsterile surfaces that are abundant in the room.
ICU sterile protocols are clean concepts at best- but certainly not anywhere close to being capable of restricting a virus that spreads so voraciously. Back in the day with H1N1 we realized that our high frequency ventilators had no filters for their exhaust- so everything that was in the patients lungs- was totally aerosolized for all of us to breath in.
The take home message on that? We were all seriously exposed and compromised.
I don’t see anything in our our practices that suggests we learned anything form that at all.
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N95 respirators and surgical masks (face masks) are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also regulate N95 respirators.
It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone.
- Surgical Mask and Gown Conservation Strategies – Letter to Healthcare Providers
- FAQs on Shortages of Surgical Masks and Gowns
- Emergency Use Authorization: FDA and CDC take action to increase access to respirators, including N95s, for health care personnel
- CDC Prevention and Treatment
- N95 Respirators Not for Use by the Public
- Surgical Masks (Face Masks)
- N95 Respirators
- Comparing Surgical Masks and Surgical N95 Respirators
- General N95 Respirator Precautions
- N95 Respirators in Industrial and Health Care Settings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.
For the general American public, there is no added health benefit to wear a respiratory protective device (such as an N95 respirator), and the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19).
A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Surgical masks are regulated under 21 CFR 878.4040. Surgical masks are not to be shared and may be labeled as surgical, isolation, dental, or medical procedure masks. They may come with or without a face shield. These are often referred to as face masks, although not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks.
Surgical masks are made in different thicknesses and with different ability to protect you from contact with liquids. These properties may also affect how easily you can breathe through the face mask and how well the surgical mask protects you.
If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose. Surgical masks may also help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others.
While a surgical mask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a face mask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or certain medical procedures. Surgical masks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face.
Surgical masks are not intended to be used more than once. If your mask is damaged or soiled, or if breathing through the mask becomes difficult, you should remove the face mask, discard it safely, and replace it with a new one. To safely discard your mask, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Wash your hands after handling the used mask.
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death.
The FDA regulates surgical masks and surgical N95 respirators differently based on their intended use.
A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. These are often referred to as face masks, although not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks. Note that the edges of the mask are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth.
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Note that the edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. Surgical N95 Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are a subset of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), often referred to as N95s.
The similarities among surgical masks and surgical N95s are:
- They are tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency (particulate filtration efficiency and bacterial filtration efficiency), flammability and biocompatibility.
- They should not be shared or reused.
People with chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make breathing difficult should check with their health care provider before using an N95 respirator because the N95 respirator can make it more difficult for the wearer to breathe. Some models have exhalation valves that can make breathing out easier and help reduce heat build-up. Note that N95 respirators with exhalation valves should not be used when sterile conditions are needed.
All FDA-cleared N95 respirators are labeled as “single-use,” disposable devices. If your respirator is damaged or soiled, or if breathing becomes difficult, you should remove the respirator, discard it properly, and replace it with a new one. To safely discard your N95 respirator, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Wash your hands after handling the used respirator.
N95 respirators are not designed for children or people with facial hair. Because a proper fit cannot be achieved on children and people with facial hair, the N95 respirator may not provide full protection.
Most N95 respirators are manufactured for use in construction and other industrial type jobs that expose workers to dust and small particles. They are regulated by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
However, some N95 respirators are intended for use in a health care setting. Specifically, single-use, disposable respiratory protective devices used and worn by health care personnel during procedures to protect both the patient and health care personnel from the transfer of microorganisms, body fluids, and particulate material. These surgical N95 respirators are class II devices regulated by the FDA, under 21 CFR 878.4040, and CDC NIOSH under 42 CFR Part 84.
N95s respirators regulated under product code MSH are class II medical devices exempt from 510(k) premarket notification, unless:
- The respirator is intended to prevent specific diseases or infections, or
- The respirator is labeled or otherwise represented as filtering surgical smoke or plumes, filtering specific amounts of viruses or bacteria, reducing the amount of and/or killing viruses, bacteria, or fungi, or affecting allergenicity, or
- The respirator contains coating technologies unrelated to filtration (e.g., to reduce and or kill microorganisms).
The FDA has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CDC NIOSH which outlines the framework for coordination and collaboration between the FDA and NIOSH for regulation of this subset of N95 respirators.
For additional differences between surgical masks and N95 respirators, please see CDC’s infographic.