COVID-19 Update: It is time to upgrade your mask

New variants of COVID-19 are spreading among us and medical experts have advised that the best source of defence is to improve the quality of our masks, an item that has become an essential part of our daily wear.

Experts in the science and health field have reached a mutual conclusion that the main transport of the virus is through the air rather than tangible surfaces. The evidence to this statement is increasing on a daily basis; even small windows of natural breathing and verbal communication are the main transmission of this deadly illness.

Additionally, evolving elements that stem from COVID-19 such as B117 are becoming a great threat to society. B117 requires a smaller viral load to provoke symptomatic COVID-19 compared to the more familiar strain.

When the officials first suggested that people should wear face masks to combat the spread of the virus, appropriate masks had been in extremely short supply and the public resolved to fashion makeshift solutions out of T-shirts or bandanas, which is not good enough. According to Dr Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who studies airborne disease transmission, the effectiveness of a mask lies behind two key factors—filtration and fit.

She mentioned that excellent filtration strips away as many particles as possible and a good fit ensures that there will be no leaks across the edges of one’s mask, in which air, as well as viruses, can seep through. It is noteworthy that a small gap could lead to a 50% increase in vulnerability to COVID-19.

What is the ideal facemask?

Dr Marr states that the best materials for restricting fine particles include non-woven polypropylene, which is then used to create N95s and many surgical-type masks, and HEPA filters in planes. Tightly woven cotton performs best among all fabrics.

And if you decide to invest in a cloth mask, ensure that it comes with multiple layers, ideally, one that consists of a pocket you can slip a good filtration material into or you can also opt to wear a tight-fitting cloth over a surgical-type mask.

Do note that a mask should not be consistently worn for more than two weeks and breathability is a crucial part of a quality mask. Masks with a steel nose bridge help to ensure a tight fit, and so do straps that stiffen across the head, not only the ears.

“You should feel the mask sucking inward when you breathe in, and if you hold your hands around the sides of the mask, you should not feel any air leaking out when you breathe out,” stated Dr Marr.

Should you consider Medical-grade respirators?

Another option that is recommended by health expert Dr Ranu Dhillon, a global health physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is getting a hold of N95s. It is the golden standard for filtration, which means it prevents particles from travelling in different directions.

He is a huge advocate for educating the general public on utilising masks that will properly secure their nose and mouth.

Joining Dr Dhillon on this sentiment is Dr Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland. Dr Milton has stressed the importance of wearing a quality mask by explaining the severity of the issue through the conceptualisation of smoking a cigarette—air circulation helps tremendously, but if you are between a breathing person and an exhaust vent, the virus will still inevitably reach you.

Both men have been hopeful that their emphasis on the issue will be addressed with Joe Biden as president of the United States (U.S). According to CNN, the U.S has already started production on raising the standards of masks.

In the period leading up to the pandemic, Dr Milton as well as other aerosol scientists deduced that the common flu was also transmitted from small droplets of common speech and breathing and that the role of sneezing, coughing, and surface transmission was less significant than predicted.

To sum up, all studies of past and current viruses have actively demonstrated that wearing a mask is a key component in flattening the curve of most widespread illnesses.

Source: The Straits Times





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