This document recommends practices for extended use and limited reuse of NIOSH-certified N95 filtering facepiece respirators (commonly called “N95 respirators”). The recommendations are intended for use by professionals who manage respiratory protection programs in healthcare institutions to protect health care workers from job-related risks of exposure to infectious respiratory illnesses.
Supplies of N95 respirators can become depleted during an influenza pandemic (1-3) or wide-spreadoutbreaks of other infectious respiratory illnesses.(4) Existing CDC guidelines recommend a combination of approaches to conserve supplies while safeguarding health care workers in such circumstances. These existing guidelines recommend that health care institutions:
- Minimize the number of individuals who need to use respiratory protection through the preferential use of engineering and administrative controls;
- Use alternatives to N95 respirators (e.g., other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, elastomeric half-mask and full facepiece air purifying respirators, powered air purifying respirators) where feasible;
- Implement practices allowing extended use and/or limited reuse of N95 respirators, when acceptable; and
- Prioritize the use of N95 respirators for those personnel at the highest risk of contracting or experiencing complications of infection.
This document focuses on one of the above strategies, the extended use and limited reuse of N95 respirators only; please consult the CDC or NIOSH website for guidance related to implementing the other recommended approaches for conserving supplies of N95 respirators.
There are also non-emergency situations (e.g., close contact with patients with tuberculosis) where N95 respirator reuse has been recommended in healthcare settings and is commonly practiced.(5-9) This document serves to supplement previous guidance on this topic.