Widespread PPE Shortages During COVID-19 Pandemic
A Lack of Adequate PPE Puts Healthcare Workers at Risk
Dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals is forcing healthcare workers to reuse and clean PPE using anecdotal strategies, which may weaken the effectiveness of PPE in protecting workers from acquisition of COVID-19 disease. In some places, the complete lack of PPE has resulted in healthcare workers using PPE that may have variable droplet protection. Shortages of PPE have significant impact among healthcare workers who evaluate individuals with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 disease. First, individuals using PPE acquired outside of the hospital may inadvertently be using PPE without droplet protection resulting in inadequate protection. Second, workers without PPE will acquire infections, including COVID-19, at greater rates than those with adequate PPE. Infected healthcare workers may transmit disease to family members, worsening the pandemic. Third, with increased COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers, the available workforce to address sick patients decreases, resulting in increasing morbidity and mortality. There is therefore a critical need to develop innovative measures to generate safe, reusable PPE.
iMASC: A Safe, Reusable, N95 Mask
Thus, we have designed and fabricated an Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system for aerosol-based protection with N95 material filters that can be inserted and replaced as needed. To understand the ability of our mask to conform to multiple face sizes and shapes, we have undertaken finite element analysis evaluating the deformability of the iMASC system. Lastly, we performed a prospective clinical trial for fit testing of our mask as well as qualitative assessment of the mask compared to the current N95 masks. Our goal is to address the critical shortage of N95 face masks to maximally protect healthcare workers and provide an enduring supply chain of N95 face masks to reduce and prevent COVID-19 transmission among healthcare workers and patients.
A comparison of the cost, pros, cons, and recommended sterilization methods for several types of N95 masks, including the iMASC system.
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