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Reprocessing N95 respirator masks one time is acceptable, study finds

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Sterilizing and reprocessing N95 respirator masks one time is an acceptable alternative when a new N95 respirator is not available, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A widespread shortage of personal protective equipment has led to many healthcare professionals reusing masks. This quality-improvement study evaluated 29 fitted face mask alternatives to determine aerosol filtration efficiencies.

Key Takeways:

-Expired N95 respirators that still had working elastic bands as well as masks that had been sterilized with ethylene oxide and hydrogen peroxide had unchanged fitted filtration efficiencies (FFEs) of more than 95%.

-A decrease of FFEs between 90% and 95% was found when N95 respirators in the wrong size were used.

-Surgical and procedure masks had lower FFEs relative to N95 respirators

-Masks with elastic ear loops had the lowest performance

Read the full study here.

Sickbert-Bennett EE, Samet JM, Clapp PW, et al. Filtration efficiency of hospital face Mask alternatives available for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Intern Med. Published online August 11, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.4221.