The current pandemic situation and the widespread chaos due to the new variants setting in have triggered people into overdrive. Some time back, people were advised to re-use masks, surgical masks and other medical masks. However, due to a terrible shortage of mask production, some of the hospitals and medical facilities are using decontaminated N95 masks. According to some noble men and women using reprocessed masks or decontamination of the mask is of great risk. The decontamination of masks used for multiple uses is a cheap and low-risk option under these emergency situations or steep shortage.
There have been multiple reports cited in popular newspapers like several frontline workers and 1st responders are using single use and disposable masks for long periods of time as well as re-using the same contaminated ones for long use. And this case is reported in several medical facilities in US and around the world as there has been a deep shortage of masks at hospitals, clinics and medical facilities due to the ongoing pandemic.
This is unquestionably a high-risk method. The medical and non-medical staff working at a hospital should not get involved in a practice that involves high risk, as these are frontline workers who are in direct charge of treating the persons admitted in large numbers. Any risk in using a re-processed mask while transportation, handling, management, can have a drastic impact on the quality of life of staff, doctors and the administration working in medical facilities.
Solution: Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System
The FDA has authorized the use of the Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System in an emergency situation, which employs vapour phase hydrogen peroxide to disinfect medical masks and respirators for reuse by healthcare staff. The company claims that this is effective till 20 cycles of decontamination, a contention which is challenged by some experts. However, it is being used widely.
Reuse of disposable FFRs
As they are meant for one time use, they are clearly not meant for extended period of use or re-use.
The decontamination technique is proven to offer an acceptable level of confidence in pathogen elimination without jeopardizing the form or other functional features. The quality of decontaminated mask filtration is higher than a newly boxed respirator but not as high as one that has been used for an extended period or reused without any processing technique, such as decontamination or sterilisation.
Re-distribution issues & the risks involved
There is always a risk while using a reprocessed mask than using a freshly packed and sealed one. One has to be sure that the decontaminated masks are not kept in the same racks where contaminated ones are put through. Care needs to be taken while it is re-distributed back to the appropriate department. The concerned persons are responsible for accepting the custody of re-processed N95 masks with and without respirators. And if in case, re-processed N95 masks are refused and are not accepted, what happens to those rejected ones. There can be a lot of rumours and as always plenty of risks involved.