Researchers plan for reusing N95 respirator masks


By Reuters Staff

(Reuters) - A type of mask used by healthcare providers to protect themselves from the coronavirus can be reprocessed to augment supplies, researchers believe.

Unlike cloth and surgical masks, the N95 respirators are designed to achieve a very snug facial fit, with edges that form a tight seal around the nose and mouth. Early in the pandemic, shortages of N95 masks forced personnel to re-use them or to use masks that provided less protection. In a paper in the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers report that the masks can be safely re-sterilized with a standard decontamination approach involving vaporized hydrogen peroxide and still maintain their effectiveness for up to 25 cycles of re-use.

Successful, large-scale implementation of N95 respirator reprocessing would require significant coordination and logistical support to ensure disinfection and safety, they said. It would be wise to plan now for "ways to scale and translate this capability to smaller hospitals and resource-limited healthcare settings that could benefit just as much - perhaps more - from this type of personal protective equipment reprocessing in future disaster scenarios," coauthor Dr. Christina Yen of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a press statement.

SOURCE: American Journal of Infection Control, online January 6, 2022.

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