The first protection that comes to mind against Covid-19 is the face mask. Everywhere we turn, we find people wearing what seems like different types of face masks.
As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, there are different medical opinions about the efficacy of face masks. The World Health Organisation WHO recommends face masks to be worn as a protection measure for people who feel unwell or are around unwell people.
The trend seems to be, however, as the days go by, that more and more countries around the world are making it compulsory for their citizens to wear it when they leave their homes. Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Morocco, Jamaica, UAE, Tanzania to name a few.
What types of Face Mask are there?
Essentially there are 2 main types of face masks. The 3 Ply Surgical Mask and the Respirator Mask. Surgical masks and respirator masks serve different purposes and are designed and manufactured in different ways.
Surgical masks also are known as 3 Ply medical masks are essentially small pieces of cloth people use to keep the germs from their coughs and sneezes to themselves or to prevent picking up other people’s viruses and bacteria.
They are made of 3 layers which serve different purposes. The outer hydrophobic non-woven layer is intended to repel water, blood, and body fluids. The middle melt-blown layer which is the key piece of a surgical mask is designed as the filter to stop germs from entering or exiting the mask. Lastly, the inner soft absorbent non-woven layer is intended to absorb water, sweat, and saliva. These masks are the most affordable and recommended to wear if you are feeling unwell and or around people that might be unwell. It is prudent also to wear when you are likely to be in close proximity to people. These are disposable masks and typically worn between 3 to 8hours per day.
Respirator masks also are known as FFP2 and FFP3 Masks are more robustly designed than surgical masks. They contain a respirator that prevents much smaller particles from passing through to a person’s respiratory system. Three of the most common respiratory masks are N-95, KN-95 masks, and N-99 masks, which, when used correctly, prevent 95 percent and 99 percent, respectively, of airborne particles from entering a person’s mouth or nose. When in very close proximity to people or when working as a first responder or as a healthcare professional, it is advised to wear these more protective masks.
Respirator masks can be further divided into two categories: insulating and filtering. Filtering respirators includes a face piece and a filtering device. The filter element is integrated into the facepiece, sometimes. The mask will either be effective only against particles, only against certain gases, and vapors, or against particles, gases, and vapors depending on the type of filter.
Filtering respirators can sometimes also be provided with an exhalation valve to improve user comfort. The valve prevents moisture inside the mask, misting on the glasses, and helps the user breathe in and out easily. Respirators can be disposable or reusable. In another case, it is possible to replace the filter when it is full.
Currently, there is a global shortage of face masks and this problem is likely to continue as more and more countries make it compulsory for their citizens to wear as they relax self-quarantine measures.