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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Researchers seek a more comfortable, breathable health care respirator

Compliance with respirator use for the next emerging airborne infection or pandemic would likely improve if health care workers could literally breathe easier.

A better respirator designed specifically for health care workers is on the horizon. Manufacturers are working with the Veterans Health Administration and its Project BREATHE to create a B95, a respirator to protect against biologic hazards.

“Basically, it would be like an N95-plus, with all the standards for an N95 plus the criteria from Project BREATHE,” says Megan Gosch, MPH, public health program specialist at the National Center for Occupational Health and Infection Control of the Veterans Health Administration in Gainesville, FL.

The ideal health care respirator would be more comfortable and tolerable. It would be easier and more obvious how to put it on and take it off properly. Those were the conclusions of research by Project BREATHE, which contracted with two manufacturers – Scott Safety and 3M – to develop prototypes.

A B95 might be somewhat more expensive than an N95, but the goal is for the price to be similar, Gosch says.

“We want this to be a product that’s desired by the end-users,” she says. “It does make a difference knowing that product was made specifically for you and your industry.”

As part of the initiative, the national Personal Protection Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) -- a division of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health -- will meeting June 18 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Participants and stakeholders will reflect on lessons learned from the H1N1 flu pandemic, discuss the effectiveness of respirators compared to masks, and look at factors that influence health care worker compliance.

--Michele Marill