Shortages of N95 masks and protective equipment left healthcare workers little choice but to reuse them which exposed them and the patients to unnecessary infection. Researchers have found that gently heating masks in high relative humidity inactivates SARS-CoV-2 trapped within the masks without degrading its performance. Researchers have considered several ways to disinfect masks including UV rays, autoclave, hydrogen peroxide vapours, etc. A drawback of these methods is that it degrades the N95 masks and affects its filtering abilities.
In the experiment, the research team mixed SARS-CoV-2 in liquids which mimic the spray out of our mouths. They sprayed the droplets on the meltblown fabric used in N95 masks. Further, they heated the samples at temperatures ranging from 25-95 deg C for 30 minutes with relative humidity up to 100%. At a temperature of 85 deg C with 100% relative humidity, no trace of SARS-CoV-2 was found. Additional testing also indicated that the masks can be reused at least 20 times and this process also works for chikungunya virus.
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