Superior Safety: Why Experts Are Recommending N95 Masks

February 10, 2022

Wearing a mask has been an important part of the fight against the spread of COVID-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic.

Wearing a mask that fits properly over the nose and mouth, combined with frequent hand washing, avoiding crowds, and maintaining at least six feet of distance from others, have been part of public health canon.

Recommendations have evolved, however, just as the virus that causes COVID has evolved. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending special filtering masks or respirators called N95s to help protect people against the spread of the omicron variant.

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Why the change?

There is a much greater understanding of how the virus is spread and shared air is the biggest culprit. Cloth masks, which were encouraged early on, were OK for filtering large droplets. The N95s can filter both large droplets and the smaller particles that can be filled with airborne virus. There are also more N95s available now. Any well-fitting mask, however, is better than no mask.

What’s the Difference Between the N95 and KN95?

The differences are minor.

The N95 is the American standard and the KN95 is the Chinese standard. Both are rated to capture 95% of particles. One difference is the fit. The N95 must pass a test on how well it fits on the face for effective filtering. The KN95 standard does not require a fit test.

The N95s, however, are slightly easier to breathe through than the KN95s.

 

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Beware of Fakes

Whenever there are crises, there will be people who try to take advantage. In this case, there are those who have tried to pass off fake N95 and KN95 masks. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a list of approved respirators. It also has tips on how to spot fakes.

  • Real N95 respirators should have head straps, not ear loops.
  • There should be an easy-to-spot brand name
  • They each have a model number
  • N95 masks also have approval numbers that start with “TC-84A-”
  • The NIOSH name or logo should be visible for N95 masks
  • There should also be a filter class — N, P or R.

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Are They Reusable?

Health care staff won’t reuse them because of concerns for cross contamination. But for normal, everyday use, it’s fine to reuse an N95. There are some things you can do to make each mask last as long as a week.

  • Handle by the edges or straps when putting it on.
  • Don’t rub it or poke holes in it.
  • Don’t reuse a mask if you know you were near someone who was infected with COVID-19.
  • Don’t reuse it if it gets damp, creased, covered in makeup, or visibly dirty.
  • Don’t reuse it if it gets damaged or is difficult to breathe through.
  • Don’t reuse your mask more than 5 times as the straps can lose their tight fit.
  • You can “clean” your mask by leaving it in the sunlight to help particles die off.
  • Do NOT put them in the microwave or artificially heat them to speed up the process.
  • Do NOT wash them as it degrades their ability to filter particles

Where to get N95 Masks

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is distributing masks to pharmacies around the country to hand out to people in the community. The distribution will expand as more masks become available.

Get Vaccinated

The best way to protect yourselves and the community against the spread of COVID is to get a vaccine. Get the complete series of shots if you’ve only had one and get a booster if you’ve had a full dose. Please visit AltaMed.org or call the vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232 for more information about the vaccine or testing.

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Stay on Guard as New Variant Cases Rise

January 06, 2022

Millions of residents in Los Angeles and Orange Counties have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19.

Having at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provides limited protection, but fully vaccinated individuals, especially those who have received the booster shot, are more protected from the Delta and the Omicron variants. Research about the level of protection that vaccines provide against the Omicron is underway. However, current vaccines can protect you against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.

The alarming number of new infections from the Delta and Omicron variants have prompted the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to require individuals to wear a mask indoors to stay protected. Now is not the time for communities to lower their guard as the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 continues.

Scientist With Microscope

What is a variant?

Viruses are always mutating. Think about the flu virus. There is a different strain to fight each year because it is constantly changing.

The same is happening with the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently tracking five variants in the United States:

  • Alpha — This was first discovered in the United Kingdom. It was detected in the U.S. in December 2020.
  • Beta — This first appeared in South Africa in December. It appeared in the U.S. in January 2021.
  • Gamma — This was discovered in Japan in early January, carried by travelers from Brazil. It showed up in the U.S. later that month.
  • Delta — This was identified in India in December of last year. The first U.S. case appeared in March 2021.
  • Omicron — This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on November 2021 in Botswana and South Africa. The first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified on December 1, 2021.

These variants are the most contagious and, left unchecked, can put a remarkable strain on the health care system which may ultimately lead to more deaths.

Woman With Band Aid

Stopping the spread

No matter how much we would like to, we can’t go back to how our lives were before the pandemic yet. The Delta and Omicron variants have the potential to spark new outbreaks across the United States and around the word.

  • Get vaccinated Vaccines, especially if you get the booster shot, are the fastest and most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Give vaccines time to work — It takes about two weeks for your immune system to be protected.
  • Use caution in group gatherings — The safest social gatherings are those where all participants have been fully vaccinated.
  • Masks protect against new strains — The coronavirus needs new hosts in order to mutate. Masks help prevent infections and therefore lower the risk of new variants developing.

People Group Talking

Don’t ease up

For now, if you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You still need to follow local and state safety guidelines.
  • Wear a face mask when indoors or in crowds to protect yourself and others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time.
  • Practice physical distancing — stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside.
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

For more information about the vaccine or testing, please visit AltaMed.orgor call our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232. Find a vaccine event happening in your community here.

Protect Your Child with Safe, Effective Immunizations

November 05, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five and older.

Although COVID-19 in children is sometimes milder than in adults, some kids infected with the coronavirus can get severe lung infections, become very sick, and require hospitalization. Other children can get long lasting symptoms, called Long COVID, which may mean they might feel tired, have trouble concentrating, get headaches, or have trouble breathing when playing.

Getting the vaccine can protect your child and help stop the virus from spreading to others, including grandparents who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19.

As Californians resume in person learning, it is time to schedule your child’s required vaccinations. Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to protect your child’s health, and you can only get them in-person. According to the CDC, if your child is age five and up, they can and should get the COVID-19 vaccine along with the other shots that are required for summer camp or school. We encourage all families with eligible children to get them vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only approved COVID-19 vaccine for children.

Call us today at (888) 499-9303 to schedule your child’s vaccinations, well-child visit, or oral care examination.

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Why Should I Vaccinate My Child?

Getting your child vaccinated between birth and six years of age protects them from 14 deadly diseases, including measles, mumps, and polio. Vaccinating your child also helps protect your friends, family, and neighbors who cannot get vaccinated themselves because they are too young or have certain health problems.

Children are most vulnerable when they are born, and they depend on you to make the right choices to protect them. It is critical to stick to the vaccination schedule provided by your child’s doctor. No matter the age, preventing dangerous diseases outweighs any possible side effects such as slight pain, swelling, or low-grade fever that your child may experience. These are important steps toward building your child’s immune system during their critical developmental stages.

Routine vaccinations are also needed during the adolescent years. The CDC recommends four vaccines for almost all children ages 11-12: meningococcal, human papilloma virus (HPV), the collective Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and influenza (the flu). Meningococcal diseases are rare but are spread by sharing food and drinks or kissing. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts, and is associated with cervical cancer in women, and other types of cancers in both men and women.

The Tdap vaccine is a booster for the children’s DTaP vaccine, necessary for older children because the effectiveness of the first vaccine wears off over time. Doctors recommend that all children six months and older receive the flu vaccine every year because the flu virus changes each year.

How Safe Are Vaccinations?

The short answer is very.

Most modern childhood vaccinations have been around for about 60 years. They were developed to stop the spread of infectious diseases that once killed thousands of people each year.
Vaccines are constantly re-evaluated and studied by scientists and researchers. Serious reactions to vaccines are rare, occurring only once in every million doses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Safety Office, the current vaccine supply in the United States is the safest in history.

Man

What About a COVID-19 Vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The CDC recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for persons five and older. Children and adults who get the COVID-19 vaccine do not have to wait to get other important vaccines, they can be scheduled on the same day

COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, which includes studies in young children and adolescents. Remember, your child will need a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine three weeks after their first shot.

Are There Rules or Laws About Vaccines?

The State of California requires all children attending public or private school to receive the doctor-recommended immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases. This mandatory vaccination helps keep overall immunity levels high and protects the community members, including other schoolchildren, who cannot receive vaccinations.

Free Vaccinations at AltaMed

We encourage you to follow your child’s immunizations schedule into adolescence, so your children are protected during every stage of their life. Here at AltaMed, all the vaccinations the CDC recommends are available free of cost! We provide childhood, adolescent, and HPV immunizations for patients 0-17 years of age.

Again, we want to assure you how safe it is to bring your entire family to AltaMed for routine health visits. It’s more important than ever to stay safe and healthy. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to schedule an appointment with your provider to stay on track of your child’s immunization timeline.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.