Of all the serious health issues facing America today, the mask shortage may be the most mystifying. Masks have become so difficult to get that even health care workers are frequently reusing their old ones multiple times within the same day. What’s more frustrating is the fact that this problem seems to be getting worse.
With no new masks insight, hospital administrators have resorted to making life even more difficult for themselves by demanding that healthcare workers wear masks while in the operating room. This move has already caused conflicts between various medical staff members who feel nutraceuticals are not the right tools to fight this widespread health issue.
The unprecedented surge of swine flu viruses in the past few months has also worsened the situation. As the nation woke up to the fact that the disease was becoming a lot more serious, officials began to worry about the possibility of a pandemic. In order to prevent the disease from spreading rapidly and infecting other people, the authorities knew they had to stock up on plenty of masks.
The only problem was figuring out how to keep up with the demand. After all, the US stockpiled tens of thousands of doses of pandemic drugs before the disease spread across the United States; why couldn’t they do the same before it struck this time?
The problem, however, goes deeper than simply having too many masks to distribute to patients. There’s a much larger economic issue at work here: the slowdown in China. While the Chinese government has closed down most of its major factories, there is still a huge demand for the products that these factories produce; products that are currently sitting in their storage spaces as raw materials are bought up by companies in other countries, most notably the US.
Since there is no clear indication when the Chinese government will begin releasing its own stock of antiviral medicines, and since there is also no clear indication when it will realize that its citizens need these medicines more than ever, there is a very real and large mask shortage looming over China’s hospitals.
As I outlined in an earlier post, a large portion of the world’s most expensive drugs are produced in China, so any time the country stops producing drugs that contain those medicines – either due to a pandemic or because it wants to make up for its earlier production, the remaining supplies it can procure will be cut off. This will lead to higher prices for the drugs you need and will force hospitals around the world to raise their prices for the medicine your doctor orders.
To avoid such a serious crisis, medical professionals are urged to stock up on their own masks as well. Medical care workers are especially vulnerable during a pandemic because they work in potentially hazardous conditions.
But even if your hospital doesn’t have a steady supply of N95 masks, you should be able to find N95 masks for use in other facilities. Masks for other special situations, including skincare workers, are readily available. You can usually find them for less than $10 per mask online, depending on where you buy from.
The health care workers who most need the N95 masks for sale currently available in China are those working with children. In some regions of China, children are often badly affected by viruses, such as the flu, measles, and chickenpox. And while children can certainly suffer serious health consequences from a lack of mask, they are especially vulnerable during the Chinese New Year when seasonal epidemics abound.
Because of the frequency of outbreaks, health-care workers who transport children from one facility to another face a daily threat of contamination from contaminated aerosol spray devices. The most vulnerable are healthcare workers who have to transport unlicensed children and women from one facility to another for care.
As a result, health-care workers continue to face a serious and unnecessary risk of exposure to harmful respiratory hazards, especially during the busy Chinese New Year and at other times when it is not unusual for the number of outbreaks to exceed the number of masks available in the global supply chains. A number of healthcare workers who have been exposed to infectious aerosols employed in the Chinese New Year may already have developed severe respiratory illnesses, such as infections, rhinitis, coughs, and viral respiratory diseases.
And without the availability of N95 certification for their staff, they may face severe injury or even death from these respiratory illnesses. Without a solution to this serious problem, both patients and healthcare workers will be put at risk.
The Chinese government and several medical organizations have taken steps to address the issue of a shortage of masks. They have worked with the WHO and World Health Organization to increase the global supply of masks, which are manufactured in countries that supply masks to China. The Chinese government has also implemented more rigorous quality control processes and improved shipment policies to make sure that masks meeting standards are shipped to its citizens.
In addition, the government has banned the use of unapproved apparatus to mask the problem of influenza and respiratory viruses, which will likely cause an increase in the purchase of N95s. Although this isn’t likely to solve the current issue of mask scarcity, it is an encouraging step forward in the fight against influenza and other respiratory viruses.