The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has a lot of people in Mexico wearing masks. There's a possibility people in the United States could eventually be wearing them as well. This photo of Eva Herzigova wearing a mask with the Louis Vuitton logo (on the right) was spread around the Internet during the SARS epidemic in Southeast Asia and Canada in 2003. It turned out to be a hoax
. The image was clearly made by photoshopping the photo on the left. There were people actually wearing Hello Kitty masks
during the 2003 Sars outbreak in Hong Kong. It seems unlikely that Sanrio authorized the masks.
The problem with the concept of designer masks or cute masks -- other than trademark violations -- is that the reuse of masks is a very bad idea, as this article
Disposable masks and respirators do not lend themselves to reuse because they work by trapping harmful particles inside the mesh of fibers of which they are made. This hazardous buildup cannot be cleaned out or disinfected without damaging the fibers or other components of the device such as the straps or nose clip, the committee found. Moreover, the committee could not identify any simple modifications to the manufacturing of the devices that would permit reuse, or any changes that would dispense with the need to test the fit of respirators to ensure a wearer is fully protected.
However, the following steps would allow a person to reuse a disposable N95 respirator if necessary. A protective covering such as a medical mask or a clear plastic face shield should be worn over the respirator to protect it from surface contamination. The respirator should be carefully stored between uses, and the wearer should wash his hands before and after handling it and the device used to shield it. These steps are intended for reuse of a respirator by a single person.
There are also reusable respirators that have replaceable filter cartridges, making them another potential alternative in a pandemic outbreak. However, these more sophisticated respirators are costlier than their simpler, disposable cousins.
Disposable masks are a better idea when it comes to flu protection, but even these aren't perfect. A mask might make the wearer feel better but it doesn't offer complete protection from the flu virus - germs can still get in and out. You really need a surgical N95 respirator
if you want protection from viruses. In the CDC briefing today, CDC acting Director Dr. Richard Besser advised people to wash their hands, avoid crowded places and stay home if they get sick.