Coronavirus: Everything about face masks

You may want to shave your beard to better protect yourself against the Wuhan Virus when wearing a mask.

Surgical Face Mask

Those cheap, disposable, gauzy face mask's main purpose is to keep out the liquid of another infected person's sneeze or cough from entering your mouth or nose (gross, I know).

Wearing one can protect you from:

  • Avoid getting sick if you're in close contact with someone who is ill

  • Help prevent you from spreading your illness to someone else.

  • Prevent hand-to-mouth viral transmissions, by stoping you from directly touch your own mouth while wearing one.

Does wearing a surgical face mask protect you from coronavirus?

Virologists say that surgical face masks cannot block airborne viruses from entering your body. Surgical face masks are just a barrier that prevents you against an actual/visible splash or spray of fluid or large droplets.

As of now, we still don't know exactly how this virus is transmitted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that health care workers treat it like an airborne pathogen — germs that can travel in particles or droplets in the air. And this is where the respirator mask comes in.

Please do not reuse your surgical face mask!

Respirator Mask

A respirator is a tight-fitting protective device worn around the face. The most common respirator is the N95 respirator. Different brands of N95 respirators come in different sizes.

According to CNET:

N95 respirators are the most protective, but that surgical masks can be worn when taking public transport or entering crowded areas to help protect you from other people's coughs and sneezes.

What does N95 mean? What are the different respirator rating systems?

In America, we uses the NIOSH with the following letter and number code:

Example: N95

  • N – Non-oil resistant

  • R – Oil resistant

  • P – Oil roof

  • 95/99/100 = the filtering out percentage

In European Union Rating system - AP and FFP code rating system. This has to with what percentage of airborne particles are filtered out:

  • P1 = FFP1 = 80% filtered out

  • P2 = FFP2 = 94% filtered out

  • P3 = FFP3 = 99.95% filtered out

[One of the key difference between P and FFP rating systems is the shape of the mask]

In Korea, there is the KF rating system, similar numbers to the European ones:

  • KF 80 = 80% filtered out

  • KF 94 = 94% filtered out

  • KF 99 = 99% filtered out

What type of mask should I get to protect against the coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends for health care workers like those who encountering sick people to wear N95, which is P2 or FFP2 or KF94. As for oil resistance type of filters within the US rating system, those are not necessary unless you are using oil-based paint or sprays related products.

Regardless of what rating filtering, the key to remember is these masks relies on perfect seal around your face. So if you have any facial hair or long beard on your face, it is recommended to have a clean-shave if you are going out in public to reduce the amount of air going inside the mask and negate any filtration.

Two general types of respirators

Disposable type

N95 Respirator

Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirator

3M 6000 Series Respirators with inter-changeable filters (there is two parts to it, the mask and the filters)

Types of filters:

  • Gas & Vapor Cartridges (Not recommended)

  • Particulate Filters (Recommended)

  • Gas and Particulate Filter Combo (Recommended)

The safest bet is to get this half masked style, especially if you are dealing with sick people with the ability to fit and seal by putting on your face and adjust it accordingly with the straps. For the disposable ones, you are heavily relying on the metal piece on the top of the mask to adjust it to fit and seal the mask on your face.

Kindly note that the higher the rating is, the harder it is to breathe through them. So take P100 filter as an example, it is a little bit difficult to breathe through, so it is not recommended for those of you who might be older or out of shape. So think carefully when you want to go for the most powerful ones and then it is harder to breathe as you need to wear them for many hours.

If pricing is your concern, go for the disposable ones with a cheaper cost, but since these masks tend to run out of stock very quickly, you might have to pay for the extra mark-up price out there to get one. Interestingly, masks are not running out because everyone is in panic mode with the coronavirus, rather people are reselling them and giving out to their family members all over the world today. Let's hope that there will have a better governance around them to bring down some of the prices here.

The following is an image taken from CDC for more information:

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