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KN95 masks versus N-95?

This content was current as of the date it was released. In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge.

Ask the Doctor Question:

During a recent CLL Society COVID Webinar, Dr. Engel (the virologist expert) had recommended N95 masks being the best. He also stated that KN95 masks were “very good,” and suggested they should be USA manufactured or distributed.

I have been using KN95 masks during the pandemic and preparing to order more. Can you provide clarity on the “USA” recommendation and provide some suggestions? Many of these indicate manufactured in China but distributed in USA by different American companies.

Answer: Regarding your question about masks, as Dr. Engel believes that KN95’s are probably fine. But the problem is that many of them have been found to be knock offs. Since they are not produced in the US, there is no government oversight on their reliability. Genuine N-95’s on the other hand are produced in the US and must undergo testing to make sure they meet strict standards.

The CDC has some links to manufacturers of N-95 (respirators) masks which can be found here. The problem is that many of the manufacturers listed are for bulk orders. So, we suggest 3M masks since they are typically the brand used by many hospitals. You can find them on Amazon, just read the reviews to try and better ensure what people have been receiving from the seller seem to be legitimate masks from 3M. They will have a stamp on the front of the mask. Here is one example: