A variety of masks and respirators are available in the case of an avian flu outbreak. One such option is the Nano mask. The Nano mask is made from a custom made and engineered nanomaterial and would cover the nose and mouth of someone while filtering out the virus. Many people are wondering if this product would protect them in the event of an avian flu pandemic. While it is unknown whether the Nano mask would protect against the H5N1 strain of the avian influenza, tests have been done on the H9N2 strain of the avian influenza and the mask was found to completely inactivate the strain within one minute.
These results came out of Emergency Filtration Products Inc. and an independent testing laboratory, Bio-Safety Level 3. A custom engineered nanomaterial formulation, licensed to EFP, was able to provide protection from the virus after one minute. The Virucidal Efficacy Test involved a titer of virus with a concentration greater than 6 logs.
â€œThe virus tested was of a higher concentration than typically used in this type of challenge,â€ said Douglas K. Beplate, president and CEO, EFP. â€œAn expanded and ongoing testing program of this formulation, and possibly of additional custom-engineered nanomaterials, will be conducted against H9N2 and other pathogens in the coming months.â€
There are a few reasons the Nano mask is not being tested on the H5N1 strain of the avian flu, and instead being tested on H9N2. First, there are only two laboratories in the US that have the available H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus and both are used by the government and the military for their research, so there are no strains available to outside testing laboratories. Also, the H9N2 is another strain of avian flu, which is the substitute strain of H5N1. Both of the virusesâ€™ cells are similar in form and appearance.
The lab that tested the avian flu virus is a Biosafety level 3 labs, and is an independent laboratory regulated by the US government. They are applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research, or production facilities where work is done with indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease as a result of exposure by the inhalation route. They are specifically trained to handle pathogenic and potentially lethal agents, and are supervised by scientists also experienced in working with these types of agents.
The filtration of the virus through the Nano mask is the most important aspect of protection from the virus. â€œFiltration efficiency is the measurement of a filterâ€™s capacity to remove particles, such as the avian flu virus, from moisture or air over a specified period of time. These filtration efficiencies are determined by testing filter media, at a specified flow rate, for penetration by an aerosol with a mean particle size of 0.3 microns. The aerosol testing is commonly performed on various types of filter media to measure efficiency and the test procedure is usually structured in one of two ways: aerosol only, and aerosol with viral or bacterial challenge organism,â€ says Nelson Laboratories.
Nelson laboratories offer both BFE and VFE testing and are a highly respected testing facility whose results are accepted by both the U.S. military and FDA.
While testing is still ongoing, and the Nano mask is not the only method of protection, officials are cautiously optimistic about the potential the Nano mask has for protecting humans against this virus. Still not tested on the actual virus, it cannot be determined at this time whether the mask would be able to fully protect someone from the nasty H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus, however testing on similar strains has proven potentially positive.
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