Surgical masks can't stop swine flu, say experts

The normal surgical masks that people are now using to protect themselves from the swine flu virus offer little protection, experts claimed and recommended a special mask called N95 for the purpose.

The N95 mask, recommended by the Centre for Disease Control, United States, and doctors here is designed in such a way that it does not allow even a micron of the virus to enter the respiratory system.

The only problem is that N95 masks are not available in large numbers in the market, experts said. “The surgical mask (the green coloured mask) does not guarantee protection. The best is the N95 respirator which should be adopted by people who visit hospitals and infected areas,” a senior AIIMS specialist who did not wish to be named said.

“Right now, the mask is limited to treating doctors and patients only but should been given to common people,”he said.

At present, a three-layered mask is given at entry screening points of the airports to suspected cases till final test results come.

The Drug Controller General of India, Dr Surender Singh, said “ideally N95 is the best but since it costs more, the three-layered mask is given. While the former costs around Rs 300 the latter is available for a mere Rs 10”.

A Ram Manohar Lohia hospital doctor said, “The N95 respirator is designed to protect you from breathing in very small particles which might contain viruses. This type of respirators fit tightly to the face so that most air is inhaled through the filter.

“If given N95, the probabilities of spreading the virus comes down. Instead of spending Rs 10,000 for testing flu on each suspected case, a mere Rs 300 will prove more effective”, he said.

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