Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu and Masks

In this business we are always curious about how a day can change the flow of things. With the news of growing cases of swine flu over the weekend, we met Monday with a flood of requests for masks, surgical masks, N95 particulate respirator masks, and kind of mask people could get their hands on. Typically, this is not a volume product for us, so we keep a few boxes on hand. By noon they were gone. By late afternoon I learned that my supplier, a national distributor of medical products, was also out. Today, we turned away dozens of people on the hunt. We have learned that 3M, the manufacturer of the most popular N95 respirator, has increased production, adding shifts and people to the cause. No wonder our distributor found itself on the empty end of things as of Monday night.

In the meantime have you seen reports of what to do to combat this flu? Every report I have seen or heard says that masks are of minimal value and yet people are still clamoring for them. "They are better than nothing," some reports declare. It is the human condition to want to control as much of reality as we can. While science tells us on the one hand that this flu is not as serious as other epidemics, indeed, pandemics, that have attacked over the years, we imagine the worst. Or, at least, we try to prepare for the worst.

Interestingly, however, travel to Mexico did not seem to be down as of earlier Monday. Should the number of cases grow, and especially, if the number of deaths associated with the disease grow, travel will most undoubtedly be affected. For now, the U.S. has reported no deaths related to swine flu.

The Los Angeles Times reported today on the subject of masks, that if given a choice, choose the N95 particulate respirator. This product fits snugly around the mouth and nose and actually filters out small particles. Regular surgical masks will protect from droplets, but are so loose fitting as to allow airborne particles to enter into your system. The article also reported that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remind us that no mask offers 100% protection. Used in combination with other behaviors, you can reduce your risk of contracting this and other influenza-like diseases. Hand-washing, for example, continues to be at the top of the list. Cover your mouth when coughing, stay at home if you have symptoms, including fever, and avoid crowds. If you must be in a crowd, a respirator can serve you well.

We will always be amazed at the role that Capabilities can play in everyday life. Last week at this time we would have never imagined to have purchased hundreds of N95 respirators. If we had, though, we would have been the hottest place in town this week!

Capabilities is on the list for these masks when they are available. Contact us for more details if you are still in the market for them.

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