ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — As the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads, health officials set the record straight on how residents can make sure that they are properly protecting themselves.

A local health expert explained how to tell the difference between real and fake N-95 masks. While there is the obvious, like making sure where the mask is purchased is a reputable source, another thing to check for is the way that the mask fits.

“Maybe it’s time to switch from a cloth mask to something that’s a little more filtering,” said Dr. Dan Shirley, interim medical director of infection control at UW Health.

The CDC warned that there are ways for people that decide to upgrade to spot counterfeit N-95 or KN-95 masks. It is important to look for NIOSH on the mask, and to make sure that it is spelled correctly.

Shirley said to also be cautious of where the masks are purchased from.

“If you’ve ever gone on Amazon, the internet or whatever, there’s hundreds of options of these masks, and obviously it’s hard to tell which is real or not,” Shirley said.

People should also do a fit check of the mask.

“If you get ahold of these masks, one of the important things you can just check is, you’ll have it on your face, is does it feel tight? Is it creating the right kind of fit where it’s hard to breathe honestly, not that it’s dangerous, just that it’s harder to breathe than not having a mask on,” Shirley said. “You can kind of blow a little bit and see, does air just leak right away out or is it really kind of contained? That’s a good measure of whether this mask is doing the number one thing we want it to do, which is to fit well.”

Shirley said that people should gauge the setting they will be in and see if they will need to wear a more protective mask.

“I think we’ve gotten used to some of the other masks, like cloth masks and medical grade kind of masks. I think they still have a place,” Shirley said. “If you are going into a situation where you aren’t sure if people are going to mask, or you know they’re not going to and you can’t separate, that’s when you might consider wearing a higher level mask yourself.”

More information on how to check if a mask is protective can be found on the CDC’s website.