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Vector Trap FAQs
With so many brands and styles of respirators on the market, how do I know which one will protect me?
In 2007, two of the federal government's top health agencies, NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) tested and approved a respirator for use by the general public during times of public health medical emergencies. It was the first such device to be approved for use by the public during a pandemic. This type of respirator is called "N95," referring to the fact that it filters out at least 95% of very small particles, such as H1N1 influenza virus and other influenza types. N-95 respirators are among the personal protective equipment that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stockpiled for use by health care workers during pandemics.
The N95 respirator looks like a mask that surgeons and other healthcare workers wear, so why is it called a respirator?
It is important to understand the terminology so that you can adequately protect yourself and your family. A respiratory mask usually refers to a simple facemask or surgeon's mask. Some may know it as a "dust mask." While the N95 "respirator" resembles these masks, there are major differences in filtering capacities and thus protection levels between a simple "dust" mask or facemask and one designated as "N95." The N95 classification confers a much higher, or greater, level of protection from airborne germs. The 8670F respirator is one of only two N95-type respirators approved for use during a public health medical emergency.
Can't I just wear a facemask - like surgeons and medical doctors wear - to protect me from influenza?
No! Facemasks are loose-fitting masks that cover the nose and mouth and are worn during medical procedures, for example. These masks are helpful in stopping the spread of large respiratory particles such as droplets and also give some protection against splashes or sprays from getting into the mouth and nose of the person wearing them. They do NOT, however, protect the wearer against breathing in tiny particles like the influenza viruses.
The N95 respirator is designed to protect the wearer from breathing in very small particles, which might contain viruses. These fit tightly against the face so that most air is inhaled through the filter material. When used in work settings, N95 respirators must be specially fitted for each person who wears one (called "fit-testing"). Healthcare workers use N95 respirators when caring for patients with diseases that are spread through the air. N95 respirators are also used in some construction and other jobs involving dust and small particles. Like facemasks, N95 respirators should be worn only once and then discarded.
Okay, so why can't I simply wear ANY N95 respirator?
While all N95 respirators have the capability to filter particles as small as 1 micron in size and thus prevent at least 95% of these particles from contacting the mouth and nose, only those respirators which have been tested and certified as appropriate and effective for use by the general public during a pandemic should be worn during these times of crises. 3M's N95-type respirator, the 8670F respirator, has been certified for such times.
Many companies make N95 respirators for workplaces, including health care settings. But these N95 respirators have not been tested/certified for use by the general public during a medical crisis like a flu epidemic.
So when exactly would I need to wear the 8670F respirator?
If you will be in close contact with people who may be ill with pandemic flu, the 8670F respirator will give you protection against contracting the flu. It is important, though, to keep in mind that a respirator does not completely protect the wearer from the flu. The age-old advice of frequent hand-washing is very important in this regard as are the personal hygiene considerations of the avoidance of shaking hands, kissing, hugging, etc. Also, avoid touching public surfaces as these could be contaminated with germs.
Who should not wear a respirator?
If you have a heart or lung disease or other health condition, you may have trouble breathing through respirators and you should talk with your doctor before using a respirator.
How do I wear a respirator?
Make sure to read the manufacturer's instructions about how the respirator should be worn. The 3M respirators are sized for adults and may not form a proper fit on children. Anything that comes between the respirator and the face, such as facial hair, may interfere with its fit.
Are there certain things I should know about how to care for a respirator?
Each respirator has its own set of uses, restrictions, and limitations. Read and follow the instructions provided with the item.