Flu Respirator or Surgical Face Mask?

What's behind the mask

Unlike simple face masks or surgical masks, respiratory masks protect against aqueous and oily aerosols, smoke and fine dust. Clinova helps us with some definitions.


With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, a common question among healthcare professionals, the media and the man on the street relates to the suitability of different mask types. Consumer healthcare company Clinova has seen a massive increase in enquiries from the public about its face mask product, Covaflu.

With efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ growing around the world, there has been debate as to the efficacy of wearing a mask. While staying two meters apart when out of your home on essential trips is imperative, as is washing your hands upon return, the benefits of a mask are also tangible. This is because coughing and sneezing can project virus particulates six meters away. Coughing and sneezing produce a “muzzle velocity” of 50 meters/second (for sneezing) or 10 m/s (for coughing). So the two-meter protection zone is of little assistance without an additional barrier in the form of a mask.

However, there is another important distinction. Unlike simple facemasks or surgical masks, respiratory masks protect against aqueous and oily aerosols, smoke and fine dust. Their protective function is verified by the Europe-wide EN 149 standard and divided into FFP2 and FFP3. These standards verify protection from avian flu, SRAS, tuberculosis, as well as infection respiratory pathogens, and bacteria.

Particle-filtering face masks, as the name suggests, protect against particles, but not gases or vapours. In general, the masks are entirely made up of multiple filter material layers. The different layers fulfil a variety of functions, including aesthetics, comfort, stability, tear-resistance and, of course, filtering.

UK-based Clinova is supporting the government’s efforts to combat the impact of COVID-19 through its healthcare app, CAIDR. The latest version of the app, available on Apple and Google Play, will allow users to report any COVID-19 symptoms and provides an innovative way to support the social distancing.

Company comments

Arsalan Karim, Director of Research and Development of Clinova, explains: “Right now, there’s a lot of talk about different kinds of protective masks, and which one is best. While surgical masks protect against infectious agents transmitted by droplets, they do not protect against airborne infectious agents such as viruses, so they will not prevent the wearer from being potentially infected by COVID-19.

“However, the respirator face mask, which protects the wearer from aqueous and oily aerosols, smoke, and fine dust, is also more effective at protecting against airborne infectious agents such as COVID-19 and SARS. Respirator masks prevent viruses from entering the body through the mucous membranes of the mouth and nostrils.”

Tom Bracewell, an NHS doctor and Chief Medical Officer of Clinova, said;  “The distinction between the two masks is really important, but not that well-known. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and, as a healthcare company, we have a duty of care to ensure that the general public has access to the right information. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, up to half a million virus particles can spread to those around them, so it’s never been more important to have the right protection against what is a very infectious virus.”

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