In the last few days we received many requests for flu masks in connection with the development of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus epidemic that appeared in China at the end of December 2019. We are therefore publishing this blog article to answer the many questions we’ve been asked: filters types, filter change frequency, protection index, etc.
The WHO (World Health Organization) website indicates that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which cause diseases ranging from a simple cold to more severe pathologies such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) or SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The virus identified in China is a new coronavirus. It was named 2019-nCoV.
The main symptoms are fever and cough or shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the patient may present acute respiratory distress, acute renal failure, or even multi-visceral failure that can lead to death. The incubation time, that is to say the time between exposure to the virus and the manifestation of the first symptoms, is estimated between 10 and 14 days.
Coronaviruses are spread from human to human through close contact or through respiratory tract secretions (coughing, sneezing). Touching an object or surface in contact with the virus, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands can also spread the coronavirus.
The race for flu masks against coronavirus
The demand for "coronavirus masks" increased very sharply mid-January following the virus dispersion around the world. Originally declared on December 31, 2019 in China in the Hubei region, the coronavirus epidemic has now reached several thousand people infected in China and there are now cases of contamination in many other countries.
Faced with the fast development of the coronavirus, it is strongly advised to take wide preventive measures and more particularly to:
- Restrict travel to at risk areas when possible.
- Frequently use a hydro alcoholic solution for hand disinfection.
- Use disposable tissues.
- Wear a FFP2 or FFP3 class face mask to protect yourself from the virus but also to avoid any potential contamination.
In recent days, many observers have noted a “mad rush” effect on mask sales against coronavirus, with a shortage of face masks in pharmacies and for many wholesalers. Faced with this equipment race, it is important to understand the real function of the flu mask.
The flu mask – protective face mask
FFP3 protection class
Disposable masks, more commonly known as "dust masks" are respiratory protective devices popular in dusty environments or in the presence of toxic substances such as viruses (avian flu, H1N1, Coronavirus, etc.) or bacteria. They are governed by the EN149: 2001 standard which defines 3 protection classes (FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3) based on their ability to retain solid and / or liquid particles such as aerosols. The FFP3 class being the most efficient (> 99% filtration) and therefore to be preferred starting from the principle "who can do the most, can do the least".
Why a disposable mask?
It’s above all common sense. In increased contagion risks, disposable tissues will be favored, just like disposable masks should. Masks are one of the best protection against chemical or biological contamination risks. They are used for a definite period of time, and then discarded after use. Making sure to use a hydro alcoholic solution before and after donning and discarding it safely is essential for safety.
Why a respiratory valve?
For use lasting over tens of minutes, the use of an FFP3 mask with an exhalation valve is highly recommended. The exhalation valve expels hot and moist exhaled air, thereby preventing heat and condensation buildup under the mask. In short, the flu mask with valve allows its user to stay in a cool, healthy environment. Thanks to the very low respiratory resistance (due to the valve), breathing is particularly easy.
Our advice and recommendations
Many colleagues recommend, at least, the use of a disposable FFP2 mask. As mentioned above, we are more likely to recommend the use of FFP3 masks - maximum filtration over 99% of particles and aerosols - with an exhalation valve for better hygiene and increased comfort. Two models caught our attention: a foldable version, the X-plore 1930 V mask and a reusable version, the GVS Elipse mask available on our SafetyGas.com website.