Designed for Industry – N95 and KN95 Masks Best Choice for Delta Variant
The COVID-19 delta variant has accounted for more than 90% of new cases of infection in August, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The mu variant has been detected in all 50 states and may be resistant to vaccines, according to some early studies. According to NPR, the delta variant is 225% percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain. Given this data, with surely more variants to follow, taking steps toward the prevention of spreading the virus remains front and center for all of us.
Mask wearing is the first logical step toward thwarting the flow of this airborne variant. However, all masks are not created equal. In fact, the difference between a cloth mask and a medical-grade respirator can be the difference between contracting or spreading the disease or preventing the transmission of the virus. In other words, the mask you choose can be the difference between life and death for you, your family, or those in your community.
The filtration requirement for N95 masks or KN95 masks is above 95%. Additionally, 3-ply and cloth masks often droop below the nose, essentially eliminating their effectiveness. Wearing a mask that doesn’t cover your nose or seal areas around your mouth is essentially like wearing no mask at all. N95 masks and KN95 masks, their main difference is head straps and ear loops respectively were originally designed for high dust and pollutant situations.
Both strap styles are designed to keep the mask taut and fully cover the mouth and nose. There are a few other nuanced differences between the two mask types. Fortunately, both masks prevent around 95% of all small particles from entering. The KN95 mask carries a requirement to do a fit test of the mask, which N95 does not, however many hospitals and organizations still conduct fit tests of both styles of mask. The N95 mask has slightly higher standards for inhale and exhale breathability, although the difference is considered negligible. This short video also explains the differences and offers a side-by-side comparison.
Preventing 95% of incoming small particles from entering our respiratory tracts is very important. Individuals who catch the delta variant produce approximately 1000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tract. Researchers have just begun to study the mu variant, which has appeared in higher numbers in the U.S. than in any other country. Not all variants pose a threat to the public, however, preventing the spread of any virus is a key to keeping the mutations like the delta variant from adversely affecting our population.
The N95 mask meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health standard, once properly fitted. The FDA also approves the N95 mask as a surgical respirator to be used as a medical device. Patented in 1995 as industrial respirators for painters, miners, and other similar fields, the N95 mask is now a standard issue in healthcare settings.
The use of respiratory masks dates back much further to 1836 when Dr. Julius Jeffreys patented a respirator for the treatment of throat and lung diseases. These masks, constructed of silk, leather, and layers of wire, were designed to trap heat and moisture to loosen the mucus membranes and improve breathing. Lewis Haslett patented what he called a “lung protector” in 1847, though cloth masks were primarily used to combat the Spanish Flu of 1918. Early N95 respirators first appeared in the early ’70s, using polyproline fibers to filter out harmful airborne particles. Companies are now working to develop technology to safely reuse the N95 mask and KN95 masks.
Though everyone should wear a mask inside, cloth masks that only capture droplets are simply not as safe an option as wearing an N95 or KN95 respiratory mask. Fortunately, there is no longer a shortage of N95 masks. ALG Health, an Ohio-based manufacturer, offers U.S.-made N95 masks soft shell masks, and hard shell masks through numerous U.S. distributors with 2-3 day delivery schedules. With mask use becoming standard across most of the U.S. orders as we face new strains of COVID-19, purchasing a set of N95 masks or KN95 masks makes sense.