ISU professor: N95 masks are your best choice for air travel

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An Illinois State University professor said if you’re flying on an airplane, you should wear an N95 mask.

“In my opinion, the danger is not from the airplane, it’s from the people in it,” said Gene Olson, the director of airports at Peoria International Airport.

Olson said face coverings on airplanes and at airports are not a new requirement.

“A couple of them even give out, like Allegiant, gives out a little sanitation kit that has a mask and some hand sanitizer,” said Olson.

Illinois State University professor Dr. Olcay Akman said you shouldn’t wear just any mask.

“Certain masks have different rates of protections when you inhale air versus when you exhale air,” said Akman.

He recommends N95 masks for air travel because planes are closed spaces with recycled air and people outside our family bubbles.

“We are really at the mercy of the quality of the filters and hope that the people around us are not infected,” said Akman.

N95 masks are some of the best, but they’re not easy to get. Due to shortages, the CDC recommends them for healthcare professionals and first responders. Akman thinks people traveling on planes should be added to that recommended list.

“Finding an N95 is next to impossible. One of our suppliers had some for a while over a month ago and they were about $20 a piece,” said Mark Probasco, a pharmacist at Preckshot Pharmacy in Peoria.

Akman said there are other options if you can’t find an N95.

“The best protection would be wearing a face shield or goggles along with two layers of masks, homemade masks, or filters,” said Akman.

You can wear an approved KN95 mask. Akman and local pharmacists said they’re identical.

“Both masks are the same. The N95 portion refers to the amount that they filter. They filter 95 percent of all bacteria, viruses, and small particles,” said Probasco.

Probasco also said it’s important to get any mask from a source you trust. He said there are counterfeit versions of N95 and KN95 masks.

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