The United Nations (World Health Organisation) has noted that, while there is no need to panic over the prospect of an Influenza Pandemic, there is no time for complacency either.
The current H5N1 virus is highly virulent when contracted by humans – some 103 deaths from 184 confirmed cases. It does not easily infect humans, though, and would need to evolve substantially to become rapidly transmissible between humans.
More conventional strains of influenza readily infect cells in the human windpipe but it would seem that presently only cells much deeper in human lungs have receptors that suit H5N1.
The accepted assessment is that multiple mutations would be needed to permit H5N1 to become a pandemic strain. The key concern is that flu viruses are continually changing.
Protection from becoming infected by airborne viruses (exhaled by a victim) can be dramatically improved by a combination of good hygiene – especially hand-washing with anti-bacterial solution – and wearing a protective mask.
A difficulty is that available masks are not always up to the task.
Full-face respirators with appropriate filters give good protection but are expensive, uncomfortable and impractical for many day-to-day uses. Use is generally confined to military and law-enforcement operations
Surgical masks provide some protection against airborne droplets but are effective only for a limited time and not at all once the mask is saturated by moisture from the wearer’s breath
Once contaminated they are also themselves a source for further contamination
Particulate respirators such as the N95 or C2 type are better than surgical masks but can become uncomfortable after even a relatively short period and, like surgical masks, once contaminated are themselves a source for further contamination
Bacteria and viruses remain quite viable for long periods on such masks. Further, up to 5% of particles can pass through an N95 mask and unfortunately it is likely to be the smaller particles such as viruses (0.01-0.1 microns) that do so.
According to Australian Consolidated Products, VIROGARD protective masks offer a practical and effective alternative form of protection by not only preventing the intake of droplets and particles but actively killing bacteria and viruses that come in contact with the mask itself.
Designed for comfortable wear over long periods and also being washable/reusable it is thus optimised as a truly practical and effective aid to protecting against airborne viruses.