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Mask

Superior Safety: Why Experts Are Recommending N95 Masks

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.

Young Man Wearing a Mask

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.

Little Boy Wearing a Face Mask

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.
Man Putting Mask On

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 us at (888) 499-9303 for more information about the vaccine or testing.

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Elbow Delta

Stay on Guard as Deadly Delta Variant Cases Rise

Millions of residents in Los Angeles and Orange County have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. Now a more contagious, deadlier strain of the virus —Delta — is spreading across the country and affecting those who have not been fully vaccinated.

Having at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provides limited protection, but only fully vaccinated individuals are well protected from the Delta variant. The alarming number of new infections from this highly contagious version of the coronavirus has prompted the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to strongly recommend wearing 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.

Doctor Using a 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 four 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.

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 on Arm

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 variant has the potential to spark new outbreaks across the United States and around the world.

  • Get vaccinated — Vaccines 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.
Group of People Having a Conversation

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.org or call us at (888) 499-9303. Find a vaccine event happening in your community here.

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A child receiving their vaccine

Protect Your Child with Safe, Effective Immunizations

Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to protect your child’s health. This winter, both children and adults face an increased risk from COVID-19, the flu, and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Staying current on doctor-recommended vaccinations and immunizations will not only keep you and your family safe, but your friends, neighbors, and community as well. 

AltaMed is here to answer your questions about vaccines, including their safety, effectiveness, and which ones to get. 

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 people 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 keep them safe. Talk to your doctor about vaccines which you can receive during pregnancy that give your child’s immune system a boost when they are born, such as the RSV or Tdap vaccines

Once your child is born, 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 vaccine side effects such as slight pain, swelling, or low-grade fever. 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 9-12: meningococcal, human papillomavirus (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 virus that can cause cancer later in life, and is so common that almost everyone will get it at some point. HPV can cause cancer in both men and women and is often transmitted through sex. 

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.

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 school children, who cannot receive vaccinations.

How Can I Prepare My Family for This Fall and Winter?

In 2023, experts anticipate that flu, COVID-19, and RSV infections will surge as people gather and spend more time indoors. Unfortunately, these viruses can cause serious harm for children, including difficulty breathing (sometimes long-lasting), severe lung problems like bronchiolitis or pneumonia, fever, coughing, headaches, nausea, and more. To protect children, the CDC has established new guidelines for vaccination and immunization: 

  • COVID-19 — Anyone six months and older is encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Most people five years and older only need one dose for strong protection.
  • RSV — Babies 0 to 24 months should be vaccinated during RSV season from October — March.
    • Babies born during RSV season should receive the RSV shot within one week of birth. 
    • Infants under eight months and babies between 8 and 24 months with high-risk conditions can receive a single-dose RSV immunization during RSV season.
    • Pregnant people in their third trimester during RSV season can get an RSV vaccine to protect their newborn babies.
  • Flu — Anyone six months and older is encouraged to get an annual flu vaccine.

At AltaMed, patients six years and older can receive their flu and COVID-19 vaccines in one visit. 

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 and adolescent immunizations for patients 0-17 years of age.

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. For information about COVID-19 and RSV, click here.

Superior Safety: Why Experts Are Recommending N95 Masks