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N-95 masks may not stop the virus if worn by an already infected person, govt issues advisory against its use

The valved mask can effectively prevent the user from contracting the virus but could result in harming others if the one wearing it is already infected by the virus.

The Director-General of Health Services, Ministry of Health, has issued a stern warning that the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators can be detrimental to prevention measures adapted against the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

“The use of valved respirator N95 masks is undesirable to the measures adopted for preventing spread of coronavirus as it doesn’t prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask,” the Director-General, Dr Rajiv Garg, warned in a letter to states and union territories.

He also added that states and union territories should encourage their citizens to use homemade cloth masks, which can be made by following the guidelines listed by the Health Ministry. 

The central government had earlier issued advisory for making effective masks at home to battle the spread of coronavirus. The advisory said that any cotton cloth can be used to create a protective cover. However, it added that the cloth must be cleansed and boiled in hot water for at least 5 minutes. It should then be completely dried out to be used as a face mask. The advisory also added that the makers should ensure that the masks prepared at home covers the face completely, not leaving any gap on the sides. The masks should be washed and cleaned daily.

The recommendation came amidst rising concerns over the ineffectiveness of the valved masks to stop the spread of the virus. 

The letter written by DGHS to all state governments, image via Twitter

Valved masks enable transmission of virus into the environment

Valved masks are typically used in industrial settings, where a user needs protection from the environment. While the masks filter in the air that the user inhales, the valves help release exhaled air back into the environment.

The valved mask can effectively prevent the user from contracting the virus but could result in harming others if the one wearing it is already infected by the virus. 

The letter asserts that only designated health workers should use the N-95 mask and not the general public.

US CDC issues warning against the usage of valved N-95 masks

Even the United States CDC has issued a warning that the use of masks with exhalation valves could potentially exacerbate the sterile environment that is used to contain the dissemination of the virus. The CDC website also recommends that people should use cloth coverings or cloth masks when social distancing is not avoidable because it will help prevent the spread of the virus.

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