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Masks prevent transmission of infectious agents through the air. Masks protect the wearer from inhaling (1) large-particle aerosols (droplets) that are transmitted by close contact and generally travel only short distances (about 3 feet); and (2) small-particle aerosols (droplet nuclei) that remain suspended in the air and thus travel longer distances.
Masks also prevent transmission of some infections that are spread by direct contact with mucous membranes. Isolation masks should be used only once and discarded in the regular trash. Masks should not be lowered around the neck and reused. All masks should cover both the nose and the mouth. N95 particulate respirator masks, which are used for Airborne Precautions for suspected or known tuberculosis, can be used for multiple patient visits and can be worn until the fit is no longer snug. After donning mask, mold metal nosepiece so that the mask snugly conforms to the contours of your face. Blow out sharply with hands cupped around your face. If you feel air coming out around the edges of the mask, you do not have a snug fit. A different size may be needed to ensure it fits properly before entering a tuberculosis isolation room with a N95 respirator.
All health care workers with potential for exposure to tuberculosis should undergo N-95 respirator fit testing by Employee or Occupational Health. At that time it will be determined which type and size of respirator should be donned before entering an Airborne Isolation room.
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