How Masks Can Protect You against the Coronavirus

At this point in time, the novel Coronavirus epidemic has impacted the entire world. Despite the pandemic's seriousness, many new hires have started work during the outbreak, so maintaining your new employees' health should be your first priority. Governments around the world are taking precautions to prevent the disease from rapidly spreading through quarantines and temporary closings of businesses. One method of health maintenance that's proven to be cost-effective and easy-to-do during these trying times is wearing masks. By wearing a mask, you can prevent the infection and spread of Coronavirus among those within and outside of your work environment.

What is Coronavirus?

After rigorous studying, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced the official name of the new coronavirus strain: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Meanwhile, novel coronavirus infection pneumonia is officially named "COVID-19". "CO" stands for corona, "VI" stands for the virus, "d" stands for disease, and the "19" stands for the year of discovery, which is 2019.

The Coronavirus is part of a large virus family known to cause sicknesses such as the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus that’s been rapidly spreading throughout the globe is a new strain of coronavirus that’s never been recorded or interacted with before. Because of this lack of interaction, there’s virtually no immunity among the global population, leading to the virus being easily spread among people. The most common ways to get infected is through close interaction with infected people, and the projectile of fluids from said infected people by means of coughing or sneezing.

How can I protect myself from the virus?

To protect yourself from people spreading the virus, you need to minimize direct human interaction such as face-to-face communication, handshaking, and hugging, sharing personal necessities.

meeting or chatting with other people; masks can help us reduce the risk of infection to a large extent as you won’t spread bodily fluids when interacting with people.

How to choose the right mask

Before choosing a mask to use, you need to know the appropriate scenario to wear different types of masks.

  • Medical-surgical masks - The general population, the public transport department and its passengers, taxi drivers, sanitation workers, and public service personnel should wear these masks during the on-the-job period. These masks are also essential if you work in crowded environments.
  • Medical protective masks - Medical care workers and high-risk groups who may be exposed, suspected, or confirmed to have pneumonia should be wearing these masks.
  • N95 respirators – These masks help protect virus particles from people with symptoms who are out in public. These masks also help keep health workers safe from contracting the virus from particles released by mucus and cough sputum.
  • Surgical N95 respirators – These full-face masks are more expensive, and they should be reserved for either people who have trouble breathing in regular masks, or for healthcare workers whose facial hair prevents a different mask from sealing their faces correctly.

The standards for masks in different countries

To accommodate the effects of each type of mask, different countries have established different grading standards for masks.

  • N series masks protect against non-oil particles likes coal, flour, wood and pollen, and metal
  • R Series masks protect against solid and liquid particles that may contain oil
  • P Series masks protect against solid and liquid particles longer than an R-Series mask can

At the same time, based on the filtering efficiency of the filter material, the masks are divided into nine levels:

  • Masks with 95% filtering efficiency such as the N95 masks, R95 masks, P95 masks
  • Masks with 99% filtering efficiency such as the n99 masks, R99 masks, p99 masks
  • Masks with 100% filtering efficiency such as the N100 masks, R100 masks, and P100 masks

In Europe, the European Standards Commission classifies masks into three levels:

  • FP1 mask with a minimum filtering effect of over 80%
  • FFP2 mask with a minimum filtering effect of over 94%
  • FFP3 mask with a minimum filtering effect of over 97%

In Japan, masks are classified according to the MOL standard:

  • DS1 mask with a filtering effect of over 80%
  • DS2 mask with a filtering effect of over 95%
  • DS3 mask with a filtering effect of over 99.9%

Although the standards and grading of different countries are different, you can find similarities between the different masks based on their filtering standards, such as the N95 mask being like both the FFP2 mask and DS2 mask.

Where you can acquire these masks

These masks are generally available in drugstores or online stores. Typical surgical masks are usually found at pharmacies, or they're sold on e-commerce websites such as Amazon. Any mask you buy, whether in-person or online, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If you can't buy certain masks in the locations mentioned above, you can purchase the disposable medical mask instead; the disposable mask isn't as effective as the more high-end ones, so be sure to replace it whenever appropriate. No matter the circumstances, it's not recommended to make masks by yourself because the hygienic conditions and sealing cannot meet the appropriate standards.

Precautions to take when wearing masks

Once you find the mask you are looking for, here are some precautions to take when wearing them:

  • Pay attention to the appearance and validity of the mask. Your mask should be clean, free of damage and stains, odorless and tasteless, and consistent with the standard size. At the same time, check the basic information of the product and pay attention to the mask's production date and validity period, which is usually two years.
  • Don't forget to wash your hands before wearing them. Experts point out that you should wash your hands thoroughly before and after taking off your mask. After wearing the mask, avoid touching it so you won't reduce its protection. If you touch the mask, wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching. In addition, masks should not be used for a long time, and they should be replaced when appropriate.
  • Do not to put the mask in a bag or on a table after removing it. Doing so will make the mask come in contact with bacteria and other pollutants such as dust, particles, and droplets. When the mask is not worn, it should be folded and put into a clean envelope with the side close to the nose and mouth folded inward. Additionally, your mask shouldn't hang around your neck.
  • Handle the mask correctly after use, as they cannot be used after cleaning, heating, or disinfection. A novel coronavirus is not a risk factor for healthy people. However, after four hours of use, the respirator is wet or dirty, and the mask's protective performance is reduced. It’s suggested that the respirator be replaced according to the requirements of domestic waste classification. However, if a mask worn by someone infected cannot be discarded at will, it needs to be treated as medical waste.
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