Potential demand for respirators and surgical masks during a hypothetical influenza pandemic in the United States

Clin Infect Dis. 2015 May 1;60 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S42-51. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ141.


Background: To inform planning for an influenza pandemic, we estimated US demand for N95 filtering facepiece respirators (respirators) by healthcare and emergency services personnel and need for surgical masks by pandemic patients seeking care.

Methods: We used a spreadsheet-based model to estimate demand for 3 scenarios of respirator use: base case (usage approximately follows epidemic curve), intermediate demand (usage rises to epidemic peak and then remains constant), and maximum demand (all healthcare workers use respirators from pandemic onset). We assumed that in the base case scenario, up to 16 respirators would be required per day per intensive care unit patient and 8 per day per general ward patient. Outpatient healthcare workers and emergency services personnel would require 4 respirators per day. Patients would require 1.2 surgical masks per day.

Results and conclusions: Assuming that 20% to 30% of the population would become ill, 1.7 to 3.5 billion respirators would be needed in the base case scenario, 2.6 to 4.3 billion in the intermediate demand scenario, and up to 7.3 billion in the maximum demand scenario (for all scenarios, between 0.1 and 0.4 billion surgical masks would be required for patients). For pandemics with a lower attack rate and fewer cases (eg, 2009-like pandemic), the number of respirators needed would be higher because the pandemic would have longer duration. Providing these numbers of respirators and surgical masks represents a logistic challenge for US public health agencies. Public health officials must urgently consider alternative use strategies for respirators and surgical masks during a pandemic that may vary from current practices.

Keywords: influenza pandemic; respiratory protective devices.

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning / methods*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N9 Subtype / pathogenicity
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / therapy*
  • Masks / supply & distribution*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pandemics*
  • Public Health / methods
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / supply & distribution*
  • United States / epidemiology