Undeniably, N95 masks are essential for frontline health workers who treat patients with COVID-19 infection. They are considered the best line of defense against the virus.
Facemasks are supposed to be used only one time; however, the increasing need and shortages have led hospitals and medical centers to decontaminate masks with sterilization methods such as heat incubation, hydrogen peroxide vaporization, and UV light.
Now, a new study from the American Society for Microbiology has offered a new technique of mask decontamination with a microwave, which is much more accessible and affordable.
Researchers said using a microwave to sterilize N95 masks could be effective and reasonable.
Lead researcher Dr. James Kirby from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard said the study findings are crucial to the many medical centers that do not have the high-capacity sterilization systems like large hospitals do.
He said, “We knew there was a critical shortage of personal protective gear and N95 masks, and we knew there was a need for a solution.”
The researchers wanted to provide an easy and convenient way of sterilization in different health care settings.
“The goal of this work was to identify a widely accessible, microwave-generated steam decontamination method,” the researchers said. “To this effect, we utilized only common household items.”
They placed N95 masks on a mesh and microwaved it for 3 minutes, which effectively killed all viruses, including the deadly coronavirus.
Dr. Kirby said, “It’s simple, but sometimes very simple things work well.” The investigators said this type of sterilization technique could be repeated 20 times on a single N95 mask.
Recently, ICU specialists Dr. Pierre Kory and Dr. Paul Mayo have reinforced the importance of N95 masks as many states have been experiencing a surge in new cases.
The authors said, “The only mask that can prevent aerosol-size droplet inhalation is an N95.”
Many frontline health workers are facing a shortage of N95 masks, which is why people are using clot masks that can be decontaminated in a washer.
The researchers think many people may turn to N95 masks if there is a simple and easy technique like a microwave for decontamination. The article originally appeared on WebMD.