Inyo County Health and Human Services

Masks/Respirators

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Overview

The first things many people think about relative to preparing for a pandemic are masks and respirators.  Much incorrect, incomplete, and confusing information about surgical mask and respirator use has been disseminated on the Internet and by other popular media. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued guidance on the use of masks and respirators in an influenza pandemic.

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What is a facemask ?

FacemaskFacemasks are loose-fitting, disposable masks that cover the nose and mouth. These include products labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation, and laser masks.

Facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing the facemask. They are not designed to protect you against breathing in very small particles. Facemasks should be used once and then thrown away in the trash.

For more information and pictures of facemasks, see Appendix B of Interim Guidance on Planning for the Use of Surgical Masks and Respirators in Health Care Settings during an Influenza Pandemic.

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What is a respirator?

respiratorA respirator (for example, an N95 or higher filtering facepiece respirator) is designed to protect you from breathing in very small particles, which might contain viruses. These types of respirators fit tightly to the face so that most air is inhaled through the filter material. To work most effectively, N95 respirators must be specially fitted for each person who wears one (this is called “fit-testing” and is usually done in a workplace where respirators are used).  N95 respirators are most commonly used in construction and other jobs that involve dust and small particles. Some healthcare workers, such as nurses and doctors, use these types of respirators when taking care of patients with diseases that can be spread through the air.

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.

Like surgical masks, N95 respirators should be worn only once and then thrown away in the trash.

For more information and pictures of respirators, see Appendix B of Interim Guidance on Planning for the Use of Surgical Masks and Respirators in Health Care Settings during an Influenza Pandemic. 

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Mask Guidance

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Last revised: May 09, 2007

 

 

Inyo County Health and Human Services
Public Health Division
207A West South Street, Bishop, CA 93514
760-873-7868
866-398-7134