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With a more infectious variant driving cases up globally, it's time to reconsider how you choose your mask

It's already been proven that masks help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus but with so many kinds available on the market, the question then becomes: which mask is the best for you?

Generally, the N95, KN95, and KF94 masks should work at about the same level as each other. They offer over 93 per cent filtration rate (if worn correctly and proven to be a genuine product). Here are the differences between each, as well as how to choose a genuine N95, KN95, or KF94 mask.  

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In the United States, one of the most protective masks one can wear is the N95, which is often sold and or associated with the 3M brand. These masks are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to have 95 per cent filtration. However, these types of masks are often very expensive and very uncomfortable. They come with bands to place around the head for an incredibly snug fit. Most laypeople would find it difficult to engage in daily activities wearing the N95 mask for extensive periods. These are, however, used in medical settings. For the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts recommend using N95 masks without a valve.



Recently, plenty of people in the Philippines have been seen wearing the KN95, which also promises a 95 per cent filtration. The difference between the KN95 to the N95 is that the KN95 is created to meet standards in China and are not NIOSH approved. They can be identified by their ear straps. With the rise of demand for KN95 masks, there's also been plenty of concern about "fake" masks.

The best way to tell is through your supplier—always purchase from a trusted supplier. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) also advises consumers to check for grammar or typos on the website or mask packaging. Avoid buying stock that has the words "legitimate" or "genuine" on them as official mask retailers aren't likely to use those. Ironically, any mask that claims to be FDA approved is likely to be fake as the FDA logo is not officially authorised to be used in such a way. Check for the expiration date to make sure KN95 and N95 masks are up to standard. Lastly, KN95 masks must also have the "GB2626-2019" mark on each piece. This indicates that it has passed official Chinese standards. 

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The KF94 is another popular choice. Unlike the N95 and KN95, KF94 masks filter out 94 per cent filtration. It is South Korea's standard and is supposed to work just as well as the KN95. Spotting a fake KF94 mask is similar to spotting a fake KN95. If it claims to be approved by the CDC or FDA, it is most likely a counterfeit. The real KF94 mask will not come stamped with text and the box it comes in should say that it is made in South Korea (with manufacturer and distributor name printed on it).  As KF94 masks are more strictly regulated than KN95 masks, there is less chance for counterfeiting, though always make sure to check the supplier and product closely. 



As COVID-19 has been studied to be airborne, most experts have recommended N95, KN95, or KF94 masks. However, it that is not readily available, then it is best to double mask by donning a well-fitting cloth mask over a medical-grade surgery mask. Avoid wearing just one or the other. 


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