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Emergency Preparedness Tip of the Month: Face Masks
Introduction
In his June 2008 teaching, the acting Oshienushisama recommended that members carry a face mask with them in the event of an emergency. In light of the recent outbreak of pandemic flu, we would like to take this opportunity to explain the difference between surgical masks and N95 respirators.
Surgical Masks vs. N95 Respirators
Surgical masks are similar to those that you may have seen people wearing in news reports from Tokyo or Mexico City. These are loose-fitting masks that people wear, as a courtesy, to avoid sharing their germs with other people. It's important to note that these masks are not very effective at protecting you from other people's germs, such as the influenza virus. You can typically buy these masks at your local grocery, pharmacy or medical supplies store.
The N95 respirator (a mask approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is a tightly-fitting mask designed to filter out 95% of very small viral particles, such as the H1N1 virus. They can be helpful if you're going to be around people who may have influenza or another virus. In occupational settings, per OSHA (the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration) the wearer of a respirator must have a medical clearance before being fitted for an N95 respirator.
If you decide to use an N95 respirator, it must be properly fitted to your face, leaving no gaps for air to escape through the edges of the mask. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure that it forms a tight seal around your mouth and nose. Keep in mind that men with facial hair that extends beyond the border of the respirator will not be able to achieve a proper fit. N95 respirators are not recommended for young children and people with respiratory, cardiac, and circulatory ailments. Please consult your doctor if you are unsure of whether you can safely wear an N95 respirator.
The N95 respirator can be purchased from many websites, including www.cpr-savers.com and www.fluarmor.com. You may also be able to find these masks at your local pharmacy, hardware store, or medical supply store.
Neither surgical masks nor N95 respirators should ever be reused. If you've been in contact with a sick person, or if your mask is moist, soiled or torn, dispose of the mask. Take off the mask by removing the bottom string first so the mask won't flip over and contaminate your clothing. This is especially important if you have been near a sick person, because the front of the mask is where most germs are trapped when you breathe in. Always make sure that your hands are clean before putting on or taking off a mask.
Children wearing masks should be watched to ensure the child doesn't wear it inside out, loosen its fit by playing with it, or leave their mask exposed to others.
Guidance for the 50th Anniversary Ceremony
If you're planning to attend the 50th Anniversary Ceremony at Suza, you will be required to wear a face mask provided by the North American region. The region is purchasing face masks for everyone attending the Autumn Grand Ceremony and will be giving them to tour participants prior to their arrival in Takayama. Also, participants will be checked for symptoms of flu before entering Suza. More details will be provided to your center director in the near future. Read the letter from North American Headquarters posted in the July edition of this newsletter concerning possible cancellation of the trip. And be sure to check this online newsletter on a regular basis, as late-breaking updates and information will be posted when they become available.
Conclusion
While you should carry a face mask with you at all times, keep in mind that wearing a mask is no guarantee that you will not become ill during an influenza outbreak. Members should continue to follow the instructions of the local government authorities, practice good hygiene (such as regular hand washing, covering your cough, etc.), and take every opportunity to give and receive Light. Let us also remember the guidance on infectious diseases given in the acting Oshienushisama's May 2009 teaching: "We need to be careful, but we should not be unnecessarily fearful."


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