N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks

With the advent of a novel H1N1 influenza outbreak in spring 2009 and the expectation of a second wave during the 2009–2010 flu season, there has been considerable interest in the use of surgical masks (facemasks) and respirators as infection control measures. Although their appearance is often similar, respirators are designed and engineered for distinctly different functions than surgical masks. The amount of exposure reduction offered by respirators and surgical masks differs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of a NIOSH-certified N95 or better respirator for the protection of healthcare workers who come in direct contact with patients with H1N1.