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Pandemic Protection

Posted by imawheatwatcher on November 11, 2008

(From CDC web site)

Taking Protective Actions during a Flu Pandemic

A flu pandemic is an outbreak caused by a new flu virus that spreads around the world. The virus will spread easily from person to person, mostly through coughing and sneezing. Because the virus is new to people, everyone will be at risk of getting it.

During a flu pandemic, you can use simple actions to help protect yourself and others from becoming sick with the flu. No single action protects completely. If used together, the steps below can help reduce the chances of becoming infected.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when you cough and sneeze.

Stay away from other people if you are ill.

Avoid crowded places and large gatherings as much as possible.

There may be times during a pandemic when you must be in a crowded setting or in close contact (within 6 feet) with people who might be ill. During such times, the use of a facemask or a respirator might help prevent the spread of pandemic flu.

Wearing a Facemask or a Respirator

Very little is known about the benefits of wearing facemasks and respirators to help control the spread of pandemic flu. In the absence of clear science, the steps below offer a “best estimate” to help guide decisions. They will be revised as new information becomes available.

Consider wearing a facemask if

You are sick with the flu and think you might have close contact with other people.

You live with someone who has the flu (you therefore might be in the early stages of infection) and need to be in a crowded place. Limit the amount of time you spend in these crowded places and wear a facemask while you are there.

You are well and do not expect to be in close contact with a sick person but need to be in a crowded place. Limit the amount of time you spend in these crowded places and wear a facemask while you are there.

Consider wearing a respirator if

You are well and you expect to be in close contact with people who are known or thought to be sick with pandemic flu. Limit the amount of time you are in close contact with these people and wear a respirator during this time. These recommendations apply if you must take care of a sick person at home.

What is a facemask?

Photo: Man wearing facemask

Facemasks 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.

What is a respirator?

Photo: Man wearing respirator
Photo courtesy of Moldex

A 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 the best way, 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). Most of the time, N95 respirators are 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.

Additional Information

Neither a facemask nor a respirator will give complete protection from the flu. That is why it is important to wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes with a handkerchief or your arm, and avoid crowds and gatherings during a pandemic. To learn more about these and other issues relating to pandemic influenza, visit http://www.pandemicflu.gov.

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