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This mask actually might spread COVID-19. Here’s what experts say

Planning to wear an N95 mask with a vent? You may want to double-check your decision

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Face masks are stacked before getting technical information printed on them at a new factory in Mexico City, Thursday, May 21, 2020. An initiative by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) and Mexico City’s government aims to fill the gap of the protective equipment desperately needed by doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic with this new factory to make N95 masks. v

Face masks are stacked before getting technical information printed on them at a new factory in Mexico City, Thursday, May 21, 2020. An initiative by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) and Mexico City’s government aims to fill the gap of the protective equipment desperately needed by doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic with this new factory to make N95 masks.

Associated Press

Health experts have raised concern over people wearing specific N95 masks during the coronavirus pandemic because of the breathing valve.

The traditional N95s that you can buy can reduce exposure to COVID-19, reports said. But the N95 masks that have built-in exhalation valves can put others at risk.

Experts suggest that certain N95 masks can filter the air you breathe. But with others, the air you breathe out doesn’t get filtered, which immediately puts people around you at risk.

“While standard N95 respirators masks, when worn properly, can significantly reduce exposure to airborne particles, those with built-in exhalation valves only filter the air you breathe in and not the air you exhale out, which puts others at risk,” one report said.

The mask “vents allow unfiltered exhaled air to escape. That defeats the point of wearing a mask,” according to The Los Angeles Times, which said the mask can help spread the coronavirus. “That defeats the point of wearing a mask for the coronavirus, which is to keep potentially infectious oral droplets from spraying outward to other people.”

Paul Albrecht, emergency department nurse manager at the Mayo Clinic Health System, told WKBT that the mask could cause a spread.

He said: “What we’re worried about, especially when people cough, is that it’s more likely to cause a spread. It’s forcing and jetting (particles) out through the openings, so it might actually be pushing it a little further than it would typically.”

The Mayo Clinic Health System said on May 9: “Wearing masks in public is our new normal. Health experts have concerns over people wearing N95 respirator masks, which have a breathing valve. The air you breathe in is filtered, but the air you exhale is not, putting others at risk.”

There’s a simple solution to fix this problem. Experts suggest putting a piece of tape over the external vent to cover it, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Experts suggest people wear cloth face coverings and avoid N95 or surgical masks, per Los Angeles Times.

“If you are currently using a medical mask, keep using it as long as you can. Only throw it away when it gets dirty or damaged,” the San Francisco health departmentsaid.