An advisory panel is recommending a major step up in protection for health workers dealing with patients suspected or confirmed to have H1N1 influenza.
The Institute of Medicine said Thursday, in recommendations requested by the CDC, said loose paper masks are inadequate because the workers could still breathe in the virus.
Instead, health workers should switch to N95 respirators that form an airtight seal around the nose and mouth.
If properly fitted and worn correctly, N95 respirators filter out at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers, which is smaller than influenza viruses, the report notes.
However, it is important to remember that “there is a lot we still don’t know about these viruses, and it would be a mistake for anyone to rely on respirators alone as some sort of magic shield.”