We talked alot during our soco about masks, and even had Mark Liao come in to demonstrate and explain the effectiveness of masks. According to this article in the LA times, health care officials working with patients with swine flu should wear N95 masks and not surgical masks. The Institute of Medicine says that surgical masks are much more loose fitting and provide less protection against small vapor particles that could potentially carry swine flu than N95 masks. There are some arguments going around about whether masks are actually worth the costs, but so far health care officials are being encouraged to use N95 masks in these situations
Interestingly enough, on this website, according to Vancouver's Chief Medical Health Officer, surgical masks may not work to prevent the spread of swine flu. This consensus is a result of the idea that the particles containing the virus will be spread more easily as people touch the mask to remove it and then proceed to touch their face, etc. Vancouver's Chief Medical Health Officer is also advising parents against sending their children to school wearing masks, claiming that this will increase their chances of getting sick rather than decreasing them.
Lesson to be learned, Mark Liao was right! N95 masks are most effective, and if you are going to spend money on a mask, why not spend it on the type that actually works!