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Duke University researchers develop method to contaminate worn N95 masks

Researchers at Duke University have found a way to clear N95 respirator masks to allow doctors and medical staff to wear them dozens of times amid severe shortages during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The masks have been in such short supply that some physicians were forced to wear used respirators – which are typically just one-use – risking infection for themselves and their patients.   

But a team at the Duke Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, North Carolina, has discovered a method, using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, to kill microbial contaminants that can stay on the masks for a week after they are worn, allowing them to be reused.

The researchers have shared their findings with hospitals in the hopes of helping to meet the desperate demand.

COVID-19 testing is carried out at Elmhurst Hospital Center, New York. 27 March 2020. The medical staff member wears an N95 respirator mask

COVID-19 testing is carried out at Elmhurst Hospital Center, New York. 27 March 2020. The medical staff member wears an N95 respirator mask

COVID-19 testing is carried out at Elmhurst Hospital Center, New York. 27 March 2020. The medical staff member wears an N95 respirator mask 

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. The masks have been in extremely short supply

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. The masks have been in extremely short supply

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. The masks have been in extremely short supply 

 The method, which requires special equipment, has been used in labs for decades to decontaminate equipment. The team can decontaminate 500 masks at once, and each mask can be reused between 30 and 50 times before it needs replacing.

Wayne Thomann, director emeritus of the Duke Occupational & Environmental Safety Office said decontaminating the masks keeps medical staff fighting the coronavirus safer and helps treat patients. 

‘The N95 respirator is the most appropriate respiratory protection for patient care personnel attending Covid-19 patients, particularly performing aerosol-producing procedures on those patients,’ he told CNN. ‘Reprocessing helps us ensure they will have the best PPE to protect them.’

Hospitals around the country have been struggling to meet demand for the masks during the pandemic. 

Tennessee’s Department of Health is even advising doctors to use diapers and swim goggles to protect their faces if they cannot obtain personal protective equipment due to shortages related to the COVID-19 outbreak, a doctor revealed. 

Meanwhile, companies across the U.S. are switching their production lines to produce masks that can be used by doctors and nurses that are in desperate need for PPE (personal protective equipment) as they treat patients with coronavirus.

Cities bearing the brunt of the epidemic such as New York stated on Monday that they might only be able to get through one more week of treating patients before supplies get desperately low.  

One such company, based in Washington State is Tom Bihn. The company usually manufactures laptop bags and backpacks. Now they are among several companies pitching in to make surgical masks.

Employees at Tom Bihn, a producer of specialty travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks, assemble protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle, Washington

Employees at Tom Bihn, a producer of specialty travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks, assemble protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle, Washington

Employees at Tom Bihn, a producer of specialty travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks, assemble protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle, Washington

Fong Lui, an employee at at Tom Bihn assembles protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle

Fong Lui, an employee at at Tom Bihn assembles protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle

Fong Lui, an employee at at Tom Bihn assembles protective masks for healthcare workers in Seattle

The company is one of many manufacturers that have pivoted to fill a shortage in safety equipment for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak

The company is one of many manufacturers that have pivoted to fill a shortage in safety equipment for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak

The company is one of many manufacturers that have pivoted to fill a shortage in safety equipment for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak

‘The masks we are able to make are simple cotton surgical masks that can be washed, dried, and reused. They can be worn by those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or over N95s in an effort to extend their life. Make no mistake: what we’re making is not first rate medical equipment — but we do hope they will help in the situations in which their use is appropriate,’ the company wrote in a statement to DailyMail.com.

The company is making 10,000 of the masks a day at a cost of around 90 cents each.

‘That may seem like a lot of masks, but you know like we do that it’s a small drop in a big bucket. We plan to set aside part of our production capacity for individual healthcare workers across the country who may need these masks and will do our best to meet requests,’ the company say.

epa08327166 Honguyen Phan, an employee at at Tom Bihn is now making thousands of masks a day to manage the shortage

epa08327166 Honguyen Phan, an employee at at Tom Bihn is now making thousands of masks a day to manage the shortage

epa08327166 Honguyen Phan, an employee at at Tom Bihn is now making thousands of masks a day to manage the shortage

Irma Barajas, right, cuts straps while Edelmira Martinez stacks material to be cut for safety masks at Tom Bihn

Irma Barajas, right, cuts straps while Edelmira Martinez stacks material to be cut for safety masks at Tom Bihn

Irma Barajas, right, cuts straps while Edelmira Martinez stacks material to be cut for safety masks at Tom Bihn

Irma Barajas, an employee at at Tom Bihn, that normally makes bags is using her skills to help medical professionals

Irma Barajas, an employee at at Tom Bihn, that normally makes bags is using her skills to help medical professionals

Irma Barajas, an employee at at Tom Bihn, that normally makes bags is using her skills to help medical professionals

Yinmei Huang, an employee at at Tom Bihn, is another of those who is working to help address the surgical mask shortage

Yinmei Huang, an employee at at Tom Bihn, is another of those who is working to help address the surgical mask shortage

Yinmei Huang, an employee at at Tom Bihn, is another of those who is working to help address the surgical mask shortage

The backpackas are on hold for the time being as a more pressing need has arisen. Trung Vo can be seen working away

The backpackas are on hold for the time being as a more pressing need has arisen. Trung Vo can be seen working away

The backpackas are on hold for the time being as a more pressing need has arisen. Trung Vo can be seen working away

Across the other side of the country in Maine, a tiny sail maker are also doing their part. 

Eric Baldwin and his staff of two usually spend their days selling, repairing and washing sails for boats. They normally transform their surplus sailcloth into tote bags to bring in extra money.

But when the coronavirus outbreak slowed business, they turned their industrial sewing machines to a new task: making cotton masks for caregivers and others who need protection from the disease.

‘We wanted to do something to give back,’ Baldwin said from his North Sails workshop in the small village of South Freeport, about 20 miles north of Portland. ‘Doing something like this just makes you feel good.’

The 53-year-old Baldwin, who has operated his shop, known as a loft, for about 25 years, got the idea from employee Karen Haley. They went to work immediately and are now shipping to recipients as far away as Arizona after word spread on social media that masks were available.

‘People are out there just pleading for masks and have no supplies. Eric immediately said yes,’ Haley said.Haley’s mother is a quilter. She raided her mom’s stash of cotton remnants to turn into double-ply rectangles called for by a mask pattern they found on a hospital website. Baldwin’s former wife got a Jo-Ann fabric store to provide elastic at a discount.

 

 

Source: dailymail US

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