Let’s face it, COVID-19 has hit the world in the face. Even countries with the best medical facilities were shaken with the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19. The virus developed in Wuhan, China caught the world off-guard. Most educated people did not take the pandemic seriously until the real threat was exposed to everyone. Every day thousands of people are being tested positive worldwide.
Unfortunately, Jammu and Kashmir is also gripped with the threat of coronavirus. The first case came to light on 18th March 2020 alarming people in the UT. Four people have succumbed to death while 250 people have been tested positive as recorded on 12 April 2020. However, there is a ray of hope as 16 people have been successfully recovered.
Given the conditions in Kashmir, the long-lasting lockdown, slow internet, and inadequate medical facilities the medical staff is facing issues in handling the situation. However, the authorities have been proactive and diligent in their actions. One of the veteran doctors of SKIMS said that if the virus hits Kashmir, people will die like cattle. So, to keep up with the pandemic, the state is in complete lockdown. The medical staff is trying to increase the number of tests conducted per day. People with travel history are being quarantined for 14 days. Even the ATMs have marks to indicate proper distancing, we must give credit to people for their creativity!
Many hotels and marriage halls are used as quarantine centers.
The concept of social distancing is not familiar to Kashmiris, but the situations demand it. Students coming from Bangladesh, Iran, Italy, and other foreign countries need to serve their quarantine period.
I don’t know what’s worse, the lack of seriousness for the pandemic or the poor PPE? One of the essentials that doctors can’t do without in this situation is the N-95 mask. A shortage of N95 isn’t like a shortage of chocolate. Lack of proper protection means putting the lives of thousands in danger.
First things first, why is the mask called n-95?
This is really important! As per the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the “N” indicates the mask is not resistant to oil. The mask can block 95% of test particles.
According to the recent guidelines of WHO, n95 is strictly accessible to those who are looking after COVID-19 patients.
the mask becomes practically useless if it gets wet or you touch its front area.
The question remains, are these masks reusable?
The N95 masks are thicker than the regular masks. They have been specifically designed to prevent particles from entering the lungs. Given the shortage of masks across the world, everyone is considering reusing this mask. But, is it safe? Without proper decontamination processes and guidelines from the medical department, slacking on the sanitation of masks can lead to great damage. The statement of “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)” that the mask can be reused unless its filter material is not physically soiled gave everyone hope.
On 30th April, The Food and Drug Administration approved the re-use of N95 protective face masks after proper decontamination with “vapor phase hydrogen peroxide”. Columbus-Ohio based Battelle’s method of decontamination can sanitize around 80,000 masks per day.
Similarly, Duke University researchers have also come up with a foolproof method of decontaminating the mask. The dire need for masks and respirators made them devise a method to fight the shortage of equipment. The method put forward by the researchers will turn the tables. It involves the vaporization of the mask with hydrogen peroxide. It is an old school method of decontaminating equipment. And luckily it works well for the masks as well.
How do they do it?
The mask is brought close to the hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate it from any microbes. The team at Duke University’s several hours’ long process can cleanse up to 500 masks in one go. It has helped many hospitals to cope up with the shortage of masks. A decontaminated mask can be re-worn between 30-50 times. This is definitely a breakthrough in this time of need.
Some other decontamination methods you don’t want to miss out!
The Inventor of the filtration fabric of N95, Dr. Peter Tsai has come up with some methods that can help resue the mask with 100% safety.
Deprive the virus of the host.
The best and easy method of decontaminating the N95 mask is to leave it in dry air for three to four days. The mask contains Polypropylene and is hydrophobic, so drying it out in a clean atmosphere can be of great help. The most important thing to note is that the COVID-19 is always looking for a host to survive. It can stay on plastic for 72 hours, 48 hours on the metallic surface, and just 24 hours on cardboard. So, drying the mask for 3-4 days will clear any microbes present on it.
How to do it?
- Take four masks and name them from 1 to four.
- On day one, use mask number 1 and dry it out for up to 4 days.
- For the second day, do the same thing for mask number 2.
- On the third and fourth days repeat the process.
So, after the fourth day, mask number one will be safe to reuse.
2. Use your oven to kill the virus.
Another method mentioned by Dr. Peter Tsai is to put the n95 mask in the oven for 30 minutes at a temperature of 70C (158F). Many reports suggest the COVID-19 virus dies at 65C (149F), so this method will definitely decontaminate the mask.
How to do it?
Use a wooden clip to hang the mask inside the oven. Make sure not to touch the metallic surface. Heat the mask for 30 minutes at 70-degree centigrade. Do not subject the mask to UV light as it will lower down its efficiency.
Some tips for implementing the above-mentioned methods.
- Do not place the mask close to the metallic respirator.
- Keep the mask away from sunlight and UV light.
- Use the edges of straps to remove the mask.
- Never touch the front portion of the mask.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching the mask.
DIY Homemade mask
Do you know what makes n95 invincible? Polypropene. It has microfibers that generate an electrostatic charge. It ionizes the air entering the mask and filters out the COVID-19 virus. If the medical professionals are facing a shortage of n95 masks, it is quite clear commoners cannot use it. So, what to do in such a situation? Though the world is in lockdown, but people need to go out once in a while to get life essentials like food and medicines.
So, what can people do to save themselves?
You can add the HEPA filter with the regular face mask and increase its filtering capabilities. However, it may make it difficult to breathe for some of you. So, use it as per your body tolerance.
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