What Are KF94 Masks, And Do You Need One?

As new variants of COVID-19 continue to surface around the globe, it remains important to continue wearing face masks in public and when you are in contact with people who do not live with you. While many have become accustomed to wearing either cloth, surgical, or N95 masks on a daily basis, the KF94 face mask has been generating some buzz in recent weeks (via The New York Times).

Made in South Korea, the KF94 face mask is similar to the N95 mask — but with some slight differences. While it is made from a similar material, the KF94 mask comes with ear loops, rather than an elastic headband (via NPR). It also has side flaps, which aim to effectively secure the mask to your face. In addition, KF94 masks are 94 percent effective at filtering out viral particles, compared to the 95 percent filtration efficiency of N95 masks. That's where their differences end, however. According to a study published last year, KF94 masks are just as efficient at preventing the spread of COVID-19 as their N95 counterparts.

Should you replace cloth masks with KF94 masks?

While N95 masks may be the gold standard of face masks, they are also expensive and hard to come by. KF94 face masks, on the other hand, are much more affordable and readily available. They can easily be purchased on Amazon or at other online stores.

Although KF94 masks will certainly offer more protection against viral particles than cloth or surgical masks, not everyone will have a need for them. If you're a frontline health care worker or a grocery store worker, wearing a KF94 mask will give you some added protection, but for people who work remotely and practice social distancing, there is no real need to wear a medical-grade mask.

"When it comes to use in day-to-day activities, overall surgical masks and three-layered cloth masks perform pretty well," Dr. Sonali Advani, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, told NPR. "While these masks [such as the KF94] may be better for use in a hospital [because they're designed for medical settings], in the real world, it may be the case that they are hard to wear through the course of the whole day. And the best mask is the one you can wear all the time."