The present COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus, has highlighted the vital importance of appropriate personal protective equipment for all exposed health care workers. The single most important part of this armor is the N-95 mask. With the awareness that the virus is spread by both droplets and through the aerosolized route, the N-95 provides protection that a surgical mask cannot match. This timely review looks at the special advantages that an N-95 offers over a surgical mask with specific reference to the COVID-19 epidemic. It also emphasizes the crucial importance of ensuring quality masks with a proper fit. Finally, with acute scarcities of N-95 masks being reported from hospitals globally, it reviews recent literature which attempts to prolong the life of these masks with extended use, reuse and decontamination of used masks.
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