In some countries all over the world, the Philippines included, wearing personal protective equipment such as face mask is already required due to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Although masks alone are not enough in providing an adequate level of protection against COVID-19, it should still be used as part of the measures to suppress the transmission of the virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if there is widespread community transmission, and especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, governments should encourage the general public to wear a fabric mask.
But other than fabric masks or non-medical masks, WHO also recommends using medical masks/surgical masks and respirators/filtering facepiece respirators (FFP) such as FFP2, FFP3, N99, and N95, especially for health workers.
About N95 Respirators/Masks
N95 respirators and surgical masks, as defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are respiratory protective devices designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
However, these respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the use of the general public.
According to the CDC, critical supplies as such must be reserved for the use of health care workers and other medical first responders.
The New Reusable and Hygienic N95 Mask Prototype
Addressing the urgent need for N95 masks for health care workers as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States continues to rise, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard Medical School affiliate – Brigham and Women’s Hospital have designed a new reusable face mask which they believe as effective as N95.
N95 Mask Prototype Features
This new reusable and hygienic N95 mask prototype includes the following:
- Can be easily sterilized and used many times
- Is made of durable silicone rubber
- Can be manufactured using injection molding (widely used in factories around the world)
- It includes an N95 filter but requires less N95 material than a traditional N95 mask
- The new mask is based on the shape of the 3M 1860 style of N95 masks
- Underwent the required standard fit test for N95 masks
- All 20 subjects passed the fit test and the new mask has been given high ratings for fit and breathability
The new reusable, sterilizable N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) is known as the Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system.
As mentioned to the study made about this new mask system, the iMASC system is a promising alternative sustainable solution to the dwindling supply of disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators.
“One of the key things we recognized early on was that to help meet the demand, we needed to restrict ourselves to methods that could scale. We also wanted to maximize the reusability of the system, and we wanted systems that could be sterilized in many different ways.”
– Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
The Study About the New Mask
Giovanni Traverso, the senior author of a paper describing the new mask, together with the leads authors James Byrne, Adam Wentworth, Peter Chai, and Hen-Wei Huang, are the names behind the Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system for aerosol-based protection: a prospective single-arm feasibility study published on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open.
Currently, the team is working on a second version of the mask and on establishing a company to support scaled-up production. They are also working on seeking approval from the FDA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
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