Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Surgical Mask Shortage?

TIME reports that, if the H1N1 virus reaches full-fledged pandemic proportions, there won't be enough face masks to go around. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the nation would need more than 30 billion masks. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Strategic National Stockpile currently contains only 119 million masks - less than 1% of the goal health officials set in 2007.

The U.S. has one mask for every three Americans (masks are not supposed to be shared), while Australia has 2.5 masks per resident and Great Britain boasts six. And 90% of masks sold in the U.S. now come from Mexico or China, who would would be unlikely to export their supplies to meet a huge U.S. order before making sure their own populations were fully protected.


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