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Guide to Masks

Types of Masks
Buy only NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and FDA-approved masks. NIOSH will be printed on the facepiece, exhalation valve cover, or head straps.  Do not buy unless you see these markings.  
The correct mask is known as a "particulate respirator" or "air purifying respirator", because they filter out particles out of the air as you breathe.  They protect only against particles, not gases or vapours.   The respirators work on the principle that the virus attaches itself to "aerosols", tiny liquid particles which are suspended in air.  1-10 of these aerosols is sufficient to cause infection in humans.  Particulate respirators can filter out these aerosols.  None of the masks can filter out the viruses when they are unattached to larger particles, the viruses are simply too small.  Viruses are typically around 0.1 microns in size.  An N95 mask can filter particles of 0.3 microns and larger.   So these types of respirators should be sufficient protection IF the disease doesn't mutate to true airborne transmission. 

Respirators are given one of 9 ratings, based on their ability to filter contaminants and how well they work in oily environments.  The number refers to what percentage of contaminants they filter, and the letter relates to the oil issue, so a number 95 mask will filter out 95% of contaminants.  The "P" indicates "Oil Proof", because some industrial oils can degrade filter performance.  This is generally not an issue with pandemic applications.  The "N" indicates "Not Resistant to Oil"  (N95, N99, N100). 

Exhalation valves
Some facepieces have exhalation valves, which lower the effort required to exhale.  It also reduces the dampness and warmth that forms in the mask.  The valve opens to release exhaled breath and closes while breathing in so that inhaled air goes through the filter.  Importantly, infected persons should never use a mask with exhalation valves, since they will not prevent them from infecting others around them.

Suggested number of Masks per Person for 12 Weeks protection (source: Dare to Prepare, H Deyo)  
Healthcare workers: 180 masks
Public service workers: 180 masks
Family of infected patients: 180 masks
Patients in or out of hospital: 336 masks
At home, occasional trips in public during outbreak: 36 masks

We recommend purchasing the following masks:  (Don't delay this!  Masks are the first thing to run out)