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In Pictures: The germ-blocking mask hospitals aren’t interested in

With traditional masks, infected patients exhale germs and can infect people nearby

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Ten years ago, Steve Flynn developed a safer way to administer oxygen to people with respiratory diseases. Now his company, BLS Systems Ltd., is trying to persuade Canada’s medical establishment to embrace their Flo2Max masks, which cost more than traditional masks. Here is Mr. Flynn in the company’s offices in Oakville, Ont., showing how the mask works. With traditional masks, when infected patients exhale, the germs flow out and can infect people nearby. The Flo2Max has an N99 filter that prevents the spread of airborne disease such as SARS from an infected patient to healthcare workers, paramedics and other patients.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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BLS Systems president and product inventor Steve Flynn, right, places a filtered respirator on marketing director Ted Reesor.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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Cheaper oxygen masks commonly have holes, for safety’s sake. If the oxygen supply runs out, the patient can still breathe room air. BLS’s filtering mask has a valve that lets in room air in case of an emergency, Mr. Reesor said.

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But it has been an uphill fight trying to sell Flo2Max masks to Canadian hospitals. Each Flo2Max costs around $3.50 each, compared to $1 for ordinary masks, and they have proven popular with paramedic operations in Ontario.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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The problem is persuading end-users to appreciate the wider benefits of the masks, Mr. Reesor said. Infection-control experts see this as more of an issue for respiratory therapists. Respiratory therapists see it more as an infectious-disease concern, he says. Meanwhile, hospitals are forever looking at the bottom line.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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