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ANSI COVID-19 News: NIOSH Launches “Respirator Fit Evaluation” Challenge and Mayo Clinic MD Discusses Omicron Variant XBB.1.5

1/19/2023

The ANSI Federation and standardization community are stepping up with guidance, resources, and initiatives to support public health and safety and the nation's recovery. Suggestions for news items may be submitted to [email protected]. All submissions are published at ANSI's discretion.

NIOSH Launches Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge to Improve Health and Safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has launched the NIOSH Respirator Fit Feedback Challenge to crowdsource novel technologies and innovative approaches aimed at improving respirator fit testing practices. The competition is a collaboration between NIOSH, Capital Consulting Corporation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and offers $350,000 in total prizes.

A “fit test” is used to assess whether a specific type, model, and size of respirator can adequately fit a specific individual. However, there are a number of issues with the current state of fit testing on filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), including unsatisfactory seal/barriers that could lead to excessive leakage of airborne contaminants into the wearer’s breathing zone. Additionally, health employees may work in establishments that may not conduct initial or annual fit testing on a consistent basis due to lack of resources. Furthermore, fit test procedures may not be practiced as they may be impractical to implement widely across an organization.

“Fit testing is vital to ensure a respirator wearer is receiving the expected level of protection and is wearing a correctly fitting model and size,” said Maryann D’Alessandro, Ph.D., director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, which is sponsoring the Challenge. “We hope this Challenge helps us identify a practical solution that delivers users, whether in a workplace or not, immediate information on a respirator’s fit.”

The contest will be implemented as a three-phase, $350,000 competition, requiring concept papers in Phase 1, building and evaluating prototypes in Phase 2, and sharing end solutions with NIOSH in Phase 3 for evaluation.

NIOSH is hosting an informational webinar about the contest on February 2, 2023. Access the NIOSH website for competition guidelines and deadlines.

Mayo Clinic Releases Video on Omicron Variant XBB.1.5

While mutations of viruses are a normal process, COVID-19 omicron variant XBB.1.5 is spreading quickly and is almost twice as likely to spread compared to the previous variants, Mayo Clinic reports. A new Mayo Clinic video featuring Raj Palraj, M.D., infectious diseases, Mayo Clinic Health System, examines how the variant transmits easily, and what people can do to prevent infection.

"This new variant makes the virus easily attached to our respiratory mucosa. It is able to attach to the nose and throat cells much better compared to the previous variants," says Dr. Palraj. "This means the virus is able to infect more people and transmit more easily."

He adds that the COVID-19 booster shot helps reduce the risk of severe pneumonia, getting hospitalized, and death. "We may not be able to prevent infection, but the odds of getting a severe disease is greatly reduced by the vaccination."

Access the video and the news item on Mayo Clinic News Network.

See more ANSI member efforts in the ANSI COVID-19 Resource Webpage Highlighting Standardization Community Response

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