FDA moves to boost supply of face masks for health professionals

The FDA granted a request from the CDC March 2 to allow healthcare personnel to use face masks regulated by another federal agency during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The respirators, as they are called in an FDA news release, are similar to surgical face masks but have a closer fit and filter out more airborne particles. 

Most respirators on the market are for use in construction and other industrial jobs and aren't required to meet FDA standards. The FDA will now allow respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, unregulated by the FDA, to be used in healthcare settings while the coronavirus outbreak lasts. 

The agency said its emergency use authorization only applies to healthcare personnel and not the general public. 

"It is important to remember the best way to prevent the spread of respiratory disease is by using everyday preventative actions. These include hand washing, using tissues to cover a cough, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and keeping distance from people who are coughing and sneezing. CDC does not recommend the use of masks by the general public," the agency wrote. 

The FDA said that while shortages of respirators or other protective gear have not been reported, "Under the circumstances of this emergency, nationwide shortages are anticipated."

Read the full news release here.


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