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Surgical masks and respirators are forms of personal protective equipment used to guard against the spread of infectious diseases. With the increased onset of bird flu, many manufacturers and distributors of various protective equipment have touted incredible results from the use of their products. Do they hold water? Do these respirators and masks actually protect against bird flu?
For many years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of various forms personal protective equipment to safeguard against spreading diseases. Of these are surgical masks. These masks are manufactured to block the passage of tiny particles such as the influenza virus and keep the particles from reaching the eyes, mouth, and nose of the wearer, therefore preventing infection.
However, all masks are not developed to guard against infection. Masks for healthcare use are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which ensures certain standards and criteria are met by all personal protective equipment. Therefore, if a mask is FDA approved, you can be assured the mask protects against the spread of infection. However, if a mask is not approved by the FDA, you should consider purchasing a different type.
Many manufactures are specifically guaranteeing bird flu protection; it should be understood that the FDA does not test for specific forms of disease, and therefore, companies are not allowed to make such allegations. If similar claims are made, you should be skeptical of the company’s validity and the quality of their products. There is a website to search for approved FDA masks, http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/devicesatfda/index.cfm?st=fxx+or+(surgical+mask). On the other hand, the CDC determines which type of equipment is appropriate for varying conditions.
You do not need a prescription or any special information to buy these masks and they can be bought at most pharmacies, medical supply stores and on the internet. However, if you are buying from the internet, be certain you are dealing with a reputable company to be certain you are purchasing quality products.
For the most part, personal protective equipment has proven to be a very effective way to prevent against infection. However, the CDC does not suggest or imply the use of these masks is appropriate for common use to keep from becoming infected. They suggest, instead, staying home when you are sick and simply staying away from sick people to prevent the spread of illnesses. However, with the threat of bird flu, many are seeking any means available to guard against infection.
Can A Respirator/Mask Really Help Against Bird Flu?