In Atlanta, CDC Director Thomas Frieden emphasized the need to respond to the bleak prognosis for the spread of the H1N1 pandemic. At the same time, in Washington, medical experts were recommending that all health care workers in contact with Swine flu cases wear special protective facemasks.
Well over a million in the U.S. have been infected with the Swine flu, and 500 have died, Frieden said. There is increased concern over the flu’s impact on young children. Almost a quarter of the children who died were age five or younger with no apparent health problems, the director said.
Meanwhile, the study by a committee of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine says that health care workers at all levels — from paramedics to hospital personal — who interact with patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with the new strain of pandemic flu should wear fitted N95 respirators, instead of the common paper hospital masks.
These N95’s filter much better than looser medical masks, to help guard against respiratory infection by the virus.
The institute said that respiratory protection is crucial because studies have shown that inhalation of airborne viruses is a likely route of flu infection. The key word there is “likely;” it is not clear whether airborne transmission is the sole or main way the disease spreads.
Scientists do not know to what extent flu viruses spread through the air or whether infection requires physical contact with contaminated fluids or surfaces.
N95 respirators and medical masks cover the nose and mouth. Although similar in appearance to the paper masks worn by OR personnel and dental staffs, the N95 respirators are designed to form a tight seal against the wearer’s skin.
The report notes that if properly fitted and worn correctly the N95s filter out at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers, which is smaller than influenza viruses.
The institute is part of the federally funded National Academies, which brings together committees of experts in all areas of science, medicine and technology.
The CDC cautions that N95 respirators are not designed for children or people with facial hair and that they should not ever be shared.
CDC says the five companies manufacturing the vaccine have said that said distribution will begin by mid-October, but some vaccine will be available for shipping starting later this month.
The federal government will pay for the vaccine and made it available for vaccinators at no cost.
Here is a link to the full institute report