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Masks and Covid-19: your most important questions about N95s and KN95s, answered

Counterfeit N95 masks are everywhere. Here's how to spot them

“Linen masks are little more than facial decorations. There is no place for them in the light of Omicron,” medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen of CNN, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, said recently on “CNN Newsroom.”

Here’s what you need to know about masks like N95s, where to get them, and how to use them safely.

Why are experts now recommending N95s?

N95s are now more widely available than before the pandemic, and public health experts in the US also better understand that the leading cause of coronavirus infection is shared air, Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said. told CNN last month.

Cloth masks — previously encouraged in the pandemic — can filter out large droplets, while more effective masks, such as N95s, can filter both large droplets and the smaller aerosols or particles that may be virus-laden in the air if infected people are present, Bromage said.

A cloth face covering has 75% inward and outward leakage, which means the US Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists defines as the “percentage of particles entering the facepiece” and the “percentage of particles exhaled from a source exiting the facepiece”, respectively.
Can filter well-fitting N95 respirators approved by NIOSH up to 95% of particles in the air.

Why the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has infected many people so quickly is currently unknown, but it highlights the importance of wearing high-quality masks, Bromage said.

“If fewer viruses are needed, or if a person who is infected is putting out more virus, then the role of a mask is in this: if we can reduce the amount you actually breathe in, you get more time” before he may become infected. touches, he added.

What is the difference between N95s and KN95s?

The difference between N95 and KN95 masks is where each is certified, according to: Oklahoma Health Department. The US tests, certifies, and regulates the N95s recommended by public health experts; In contrast, manufacturers in China are testing KN95s, but the country’s government has no regulatory body to validate them, said Aaron Collins, a professor emeritus at Mercer University’s School of Engineering and a mechanical engineer with a background in aerosol science.
About 60% of the KN95 respirators NIOSH evaluated during the 2020 and 2021 pandemics did not meet the requirements they were required to meet, according to the CDC.

“If they’re made to standard and certified by the right boards in their country, like NIOSH here, they’re all basically doing the same thing,” Bromage said. They “may meet the standards, but they are not certified to meet them. And there are others who clearly don’t.”

KF94 masks are Korean standard masks that have been tested and regulated by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, said Kelly Carothers, the director of government affairs and sustainability at Project N95, the national clearinghouse working to provide equitable access to personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing.

How do I recognize a fake N95, KN95 or KF94?

NIOSH has a list of approved N95 respirators. These masks should be in the shape of a cup, a flat fold or a duck beak; two bands that go around your head; an adjustable wire nose bridge; and appropriate markings indicating NIOSH approval, the CDC says.
The agency also has resources for identify fake N95 masks, whose characters include a total absence of marks on the mask or NIOSH misspelled. The resources also include turning the N95 on and off correctly and performing a respiratory seal check.
The CDC has a list of characters a KN95 respirator may be counterfeit, including manufacturer claims that the KN95 respirator is approved or certified by the CDC or NIOSH.

“When shopping for a KN95 mask, we recommend making sure that the[Chinese government]standard is written on the side of the mask, which is similar to the NIOSH” standards for US N95s, Carothers said.

Those Chinese government standards for KN95s should be GB 2626-2019 or GB 2626-2006, which was the standard before GB 2626-2019, Carothers advised.

The Korean Ministry has a online database of approved KF94 manufacturers, but the webpage is in Korean and may not be fully and accurately translated by your internet browser’s translation plugin. However, there are some tips in English about: these images for check marks when purchasing KF94 masks, including packaging marked with the words “Quasi-Drug Product” and “KF94.”

Can children wear N95s, KN95s or KF94s?

The N95s are medical masks made for health professionals, so of course there are no N95 masks designed or made for children as only adults would work in health care.

However, taller children in the elementary through high school age range and older may be able to wear N95s that are designed in small sizes for adults, Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, told CNN this month.

“If you see an N95 being marketed to children, that should raise a red flag,” Marr said. “There will be KN95 and KF94s that are designed and marketed for children. So it’s the same problem we discussed for adults, which is making sure you get them from a trusted, reputable source.

Pictured is a children's KN95 mask in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, on Jan. 13.

“…Certainly, for children, a KN95 or KF94 will on average provide better protection than a surgical mask or cloth mask,” Marr added.

If you have trouble fitting a KN95, KF94 or N95 to your child’s face, no matter how many brands you’ve tried, you can fasten the ear loops or use toggles or cord locks to make sure the mask fits tight enough, suggested Marr for. The CDC’s knot and pleat method could also work.

Where can I get N95s, KN95s or KF94s?

Specially labeled “surgical” N95s “should be reserved for use by healthcare professionals,” the CDC says, but other N95s can be found at some hardware stores, retailers and drug stores.

N95 masks made by 3M — a leading global manufacturer of N95 masks and the largest producer of the masks in the US — are available at all major retailers, including Home Depot, Target, Lowes, Menards and Amazon’s 3M store, 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich told CNN this month.

Amazon has said it prohibits sellers from claiming that their KN95 masks are “FDA-approved” since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve KN95 masks.

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“If you go to Amazon, make sure you buy from the (N95) manufacturer’s direct store, such as their official store” on Amazon, Collins said.

For both children and adults, Project N95 is a reliable source of which you can get N95s, KN95s and KF94s, Marr said.
As consumer demand for these masks has increased, there have been online reports of price pushes. Some public health departments, such as those for Maryland and Milwaukee, offer free N95 masks.

Is reusing N95’s safe?

In medical settings, healthcare workers often change masks to avoid contaminating a patient’s room with equipment worn in another room with an infectious person, Bromage explains. “If you take something medical-grade that’s a single use and then bring it out to the general public, we’re not worried about contaminating different environments. … It’s really about protecting you.”

So yes, you can reuse your N95 mask.

Even after wearing an N95 in a crowded indoor environment — such as a subway or grocery store — an N95’s material and filtration capacity won’t “degrade unless you physically rub it or poke holes in it,” Marr said, adding that she’s an N95. wears her N95 masks for a week. “You would have to be in really polluted air for several days before it lost its ability to filter out particles.”

However, there are things to keep in mind to safely reuse an N95: When donning, avoid the front outer part of the mask; grab it by the edges or straps instead.

If you discover you’re around someone infected with the coronavirus while wearing an N95, throw that mask away so you don’t risk coming into contact with the virus, Bromage advised. Being unknowingly exposed to infected people while wearing an N95 is possible, so take distance can help reduce the risk as much as possible.

If the mask becomes damp, visibly soiled, bent, wrinkled, difficult to breathe or otherwise damaged — including from makeup — you should replace it to avoid wearing a less effective mask, Marr and Bromage said.

Can I somehow clean the N95s?

You shouldn’t wash an N95 because water would dissipate the special static charge from the mask that helps it filter out viruses so well, Marr said.

What you can do is put the mask aside, because particles die within hours, she added, and that’s even faster if you put it in sunlight.

But the fact that warmer temperatures can have a “disinfecting” effect on N95s doesn’t mean you should throw the masks in an oven or microwave, Bromage said. That can ruin the mask. “I used to stick mine on my car dashboard in the summer, and that would do more than enough.”

Katherine Dillinger and John Bonifield of CNN contributed to this story.