How effective are cloth masks against the Coronavirus?
With COVID-19 being the talk of town – well everywhere.There has been a lot of misinformation being spread and as evident,misinformation can spread like wild fire and cause many disputes among experts and the general population. One such topic is in regards to wearing a face mask. Why weren't face masks recommended at the start of the pandemic? To simply put, it was lack of knowledge and evidence. At the time, experts were unaware to which extent people with COVID-19 could spread the virus before symptoms appeared as well as the fact that there could be asymptomatic carriers.
CDC and WHO had underestimated the prevalence of the disease and hence, based their advice on a false sense of security.
Furthermore, both the organizations now recommend cloth masks for the general public, but earlier in the pandemic, they had recommended just the opposite. Which has led to the question: Can cloth masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19? Yes, face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus.
Why was there a sudden shift in their beliefs?
Firstly, there is the issue of the limited supply of surgical masks and N95 respirators and should ideally be saved for health care workers. Moreover, culturally, many countries were not prepared to wear masks unlike some Asian countries like Japan and Korea where the practice was more common. Even now, a lot of people are choosing to ignore the local government mandates on using masks.
The concept of wearing a mask is risk reduction rather than absolute prevention. For example, a person suffering from high cholesterol level, would not be taking medicine because it would prevent a heart attack 100 prevent but it is to reduce the risk substantially
Studies have found that viral load peaks in the days before symptoms begin and that speaking is enough to expel virus-carrying droplets. Another study was conducted to test the effectiveness of a cloth mask to a surgical mask. The study had concluded that both masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was 3 times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask. However, it also suggested that during speech, when droplets are expelled at a lower pressure and are not small enough to squeeze through the weave of a cotton mask. Masks may be more effective as a “source control” because they can prevent larger expelled droplets from evaporating into smaller droplets that can travel farther.
Another factor to remember is that you could still catch the virus through the membranes in your eyes, a risk that masking does not eliminate and this is where the importance of social distancing and proper personal hygiene comes into light.
Wear a mask to protect others
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms
- Wear a mask in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when it may be difficult for you to stay six feet apart
- Don’t put the mask around your neck or up on your forehead
- Don’t touch the mask, and, if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to disinfect
- Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops
- Handle only by the ear loops or ties
- Fold outside corners together
- Place mask in the washing machine or wash your mask by hand after soaking in a bleach solution
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing.
Wearing a mask in public by every person, as well as strict adherence to distancing and hand washing, could significantly decrease the transmission rate and thereby contain the pandemic until a vaccine becomes available.