Protection against SARS


Senior HTF Member
Dec 15, 2001
Real Name
I have relatives living in Taiwan, and we're trying to find masks for them to use, since Taiwan and all the other countries affected by SARS are fresh out of them. The WHO and CDC have recommended the N95 mask and better, but while searching online for places that still have this mask in stock (yeah, I know, almost no hope, but what the hey...), I came across this post at a medical supply forum:

One of the reasons SARS has spread is that the World Health Organization recommended the wrong mask. N95 has a poor 95% filtering ability of sub micron particulates. It cannot create a significant static electricity that distinguishes a good mask from a sub standard one. This leaves it in the substandard class. The EN 149:2001 FFP3D is by far a superior mask/respirator that filters 98% of all known particulates and can create a significant amount os static in the fabric of the mask to block viruses. FFP3D is also far less prone to leakage because of its superior design and durability. Wear the N95 at your peril, I would have thought that people looked into a mask before being marched up the garden path by the WHO. Asian Governments consider their peoples lives no more than battery hens. The poor filtering quality of the N95 seems to be the hot appeal, not the containment of SARS.
Is he telling the truth, or is he going overboard? Your input would be much appreciated.

John Chow

Second Unit
Sep 18, 1998
Hm..I'm curious about this as well since I'm currently working in Taiwan. I'm not sure if what he lists is an actual model #, or a standard of filtration. The couple of sites I found it on were in the UK, and it seems like that mask is quite expensive, ~28 pounds or so. The guy's post seems heavily laced with rhetoric, so it's hard to tell whether he's trying to push his own agenda or has a legitimate beef. I'm sure the mask he lists is better than the N95 (or at least the cost difference would definitely seem to indicate that), but as to whether it is necessary or overkill is another question altogether.

Devin U

Second Unit
Jun 23, 2002
any mask that could do that would have to be custom fitted and made, costing thousands of dollars. N95 masks are fine. the only people who would have anykind of problems with a N95 are guys with beards. It cant fit right with the hair in the way. After putting a N95 on, just have your family breath a few breaths. If the mask moves (rises and falls) with their breathing, then you have a good fit which should protect you. As well, people with round faces should probably use the 3M preformed masks, as they seal better.


Senior HTF Member
Aug 15, 2002
For what it's worth:

There has never been any conclusive data to suggest that N95 masks are any better than standard (not specifically fitted) surgical masks at protecting from droplet-based or particulate-based infection (the data I'm aware of are related to tuberculosis). Of course, we are using the N95 in our practice and will continue to do so, but if the shortage deepens (we have our current supply and little possibility of getting a new supply) we will switch to the basic masks.

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