Friday 31 January 2020

Sudden surge in demand for N95 masks as Wuhan coronavirus turns into global contagion.

A virus with no cure has raised panic across the governments of the globe. Some countries are closing borders with China, while others are awaiting approval from the Chinese authority to fly back their possible patients. As the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, officials in China are urging citizens to wear N95 masks in public to stop the spread of the virus -  and cities in China, as well as other parts of Asia, are reportedly running out of face masks.

Why only N95 masks?

Medical experts are yet to conclude the exact process of transmission of novel coronavirus but are recommending it as most airborne pathogen -  germs that can travel in particles or droplets in the air spread inside the body by touching of face or nose. The cheap (single layer) surgical masks which come in green or blue colour aren’t thick enough to prevent viruses. The N95 respirators are made of special antiviral medical textiles are found to be more superiors in the prevention of similar contagions. These come with 6 layers of medical textiles with the branded ones being certified by US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), a premier US government institute strongly recommends a self-controlled lockdown of self and family along with minimum intervention with outsiders or neighbours. In case of emergency, CDC recommends proper use of N95 respirators outdoor all the time. These respirators are designed to fit tightly around the nose and mouth, and, when worn correctly, block out at least 95% of small airborne particles, says a CDC guideline.

With the disease quickly spreading from Wuhan to other districts, China is running out of N95 masks. China, despite being the largest manufacturer of Medtech accessories is eyeing Indian suppliers to replenish stocks. Traditionally, India is a major importer of surgical masks but a severe shortage in Chinese markets has reversed the trade chain. There’s panic among Chinese families and demand for N95 masks has surged suddenly. Eyeing this situation, ANI reported that India’s Medtech companies are working around the clock to meet export orders. Due to excessive shortage, Indian exporters have been told to wait for at least 20 days before they ship their consignments by air.

Prevention is better than cure

India’s National Centre for Disease Control has issued a RED level warning regarding Novel coronavirus, novel because such type of virus has never been detected before. The guidelines are:

  • All non-essential travel to China to be avoided.
  • Observe good personal hygiene.
  • Practice frequent handwashing with soap.
  • Follow respiratory etiquettes - cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness, such as cough, runny nose etc.
  • Avoid contact with live animals and consumption of raw/undercooked meats.
  • Avoid travel to farms, live animal markets or where animals are slaughtered.
  • Wear an N95 mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose.
  • Report to the nearest Government doctor and inform him about your travel history.

World Health Organisation has declared coronavirus as a global epidemic. Economists expect a cut of 2 to 3% in China’s GDP. This would severely affect and add to an existing global slowdown.

Source - CDC - US Government, PIB - Government of India.