Surgical and FFP2 masks continue to protect their wearers against the new coronavirus (Covid-19) after undergoing a decontamination protocol developed by Wallonia, the first results of a study show, the Walloon Government announced.
With masks in short supply in Belgium, the Government of Wallonia recently decided to set up a mask- production chain and a decontamination chain to enhance the protection of health workers on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus.
Within the decontamination chain, the protocol was established by Liège University Hospital in collaboration with three companies - Sterigenics, AMB Ecosteryl and Lasea - and two research centres, Materia Nova, Centex Bel. It was then submitted, on 2 April, to the Federal Agency for Medicinal and Health Products (FAMHP).
A few days later, the FAMHP issued a national directive to guide the reprocessing of masks for reuse after cleaning, disinfection or sterilisation. “The Walloon consortium’s protocol is compliant on all points with this directive,” the regional government reported on Saturday.
The first results of the study, which was carried out by the Region and Liège University Hospital, show that the masks continue to function effectively, retaining their filtering ability and breathability, after undergoing a cycle of decontamination by dry heat, UV, plasma or hydrogen peroxide.
"To study the effectiveness of these treatments on the reduction of the microbial load, in addition to the standard microbiological control, the different decontamination methods were also applied to masks worn for three consecutive hours,” the regional executive explained.
“The different treatments proposed by the Walloon companies reduced the microbial load to the level observed with new masks,” it said.
"These first results are primordial,” the regional government stressed. “They allow hospitals, nursing homes and, generally, all institutions facing a shortage of masks, to establish a utilisation protocol for methods that are commonly used and quite easily accessible, such as hydrogen peroxide or dry heat, for example, to decontaminate their masks.”
“The results are also very positive for the more innovative methods, such as UV radiation, and plasma,” the Walloon Government said, adding, however, that the studies have not yet ended since “the effects of multiple decontaminations, in particular, will now need to be studied.”
The Brussels Times