Various news outlets are broadcasting a June 1, 2007 interview of Andrew Speaker by ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Speaker is being treated at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorada for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
In the clip that was viewed by InsideSurgery.com, Speaker was wearing a white paper surgical mask and Diane Sawyer and Speaker’s wife Sarah Cooksey appeared without masks. Presumbably, the mask Speaker was wearing demonstrates a new found interest in protecting the people in proximity to him from the small, but real chance, that they might contract this deadly bacteria.
The only problem is that for the prevention of transmission of tuberculosis the type of mask Speaker was wearing is worthless. Surgical masks will not block aerolized particles as small as a TB bacillus from entering the airway. They essentially stop only spittle from a surgeon’s mouth and mucous from a surgeon’s nose from inadvertently dropping into a wound.
In order to prevent transmission of tuberculosis,the CDC suggests that masks rated N95 be used. The “95” rating means that the mask will stop 95% of particles .3 microns or larger in size. These masks are sold under various brand names such as the Affinity Foldable Respirator and the Particulate Respirator.
N95 masks usually have a rubberized strap that fits around the head and a rubberized border around the mask filter that allows for a snug, tight fit. When medical personnel are fitted for their N95 masks that must be worn when they are near TB patients, they typically must schedule a trip to the Occupational and Employee Health office to insure their masks are properly sized.
Experts in tuberculosis such as those purported to be on staff at the Denver hospital Speaker is being treated at would undoubtedly know which type of mask is required to stop TB transmission. As he was not wearing an N95 mask, it raises the question of just how infectious the doctors in Denver believe Speaker to be. If they do not believe he is infectious and Sawyer and Cooksey were not concerned enough to wear any type of protection, then it is mystifying as to why Speaker was wearing a mask at all?
Copyright 2007 InsideSurgery.com