Coronavirus: Saskatoon lab now has the ability to disinfect N95 masks for re-use

Coronavirus: Saskatoon lab now has the ability to disinfect N95 masks for re-use
WATCH: VIDO-InterVac says they have the ability to decontaminate thousands of masks per week and could begin as early as next week.

A Saskatoon lab has partnered with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to decontaminate and reuse N95 respiratory masks that are normally thrown out after each use.

This week, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan tested a decontamination procedure on several dozen N95 masks for the SHA.

VIDO-InterVac is using vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization to decontaminate the masks, which the lab says will “provide an emergency N95 back-up supply for hospitals if the need arises during the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Makers of 1st coronavirus vaccine in Saskatchewan get $28M in federal, provincial funding

The same method has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration after Duke University published a study showing its effectiveness.

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VIDO-InterVac says they have the ability to decontaminate thousands of masks per week.

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“We are ready as early as next week to provide this as a backup if needed,” said Dr. Volker Gerdts, director of VIDO-InterVac.

The equipment required to undertake the decontamination process is available in a just few places in North America with VIDO-InterVac being one of them, said Gerdts.

The SHA says the use of disinfected masks serve as a good contingency plan.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatoon lab tests potential vaccine on ferrets

“The SHA and USask’s VIDO-InterVac have come up with a potential solution for the safe and effective sterilization and re-use of PPE that could potentially save lives,” said USask neurosurgery professor and SHA surgeon Dr. Michael Kelly, who co-leads the SHA task force on PPE, in a statement.

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“This is an excellent contingency plan and shows the ability of Saskatchewan organizations to come together to solve critical problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Worn by health-care workers and paramedics, N95 respirators are form-fitting masks designed to filter out pathogens.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.