MASKS: WEAR IT OR NOT?
Content Courtesy Vivek Vasudevan
Confusions looms on the official communications around the world regarding the effectiveness of masks against the spread of COVID19. You might have seen videos and articles saying that public don’t require a mask, and healthcare workers desperately need them more than you do. The main reason for this initial advice is when the epidemic broke out, the healthcare community wasn’t fully aware of how the disease circulates among the population. They initially thought the infections spread through large droplets comes out of the patients when coughing or sneezing.
During April when the disease widely spread in Europe, WHO wasn’t fully convinced if the virus could transmit through aerosols, or the fine mist, that can stay in the air for hours.
However, the scientists believe gathering sufficient data needs many years of research. The disease spreads through much smaller particles in the exhaled air as aerosols. The scientists say they have the scientific evidences for this is happening. They recommend precautionary measures, like better ventilation.
As the COVID-19 infections grew in March, scientists and healthcare departments discouraged buying masks by the public. When suddenly people try to wear masks, they have the risk of infection through contaminated or mishandled masks. And large scale buying will create a shortage of masks and respirators in the hospitals.
Healthcare professionals as part of their profession receive training on how to use the respirator and face mask. However, when scientists put healthcare workers on a simple test on the effectiveness of face masks. Artificial sweetener saccharin sprayed on the face masks. They asked the healthcare professionals to wear the masks. They don’t taste the sweetener if they were wearing it right. But a 60% of them did. The study shows how important it is to educate the public about how to wear the masks properly.
The officials at WHO have been reiterating that they don’t have any evidence to call COVID-19 an airborne infection. The meaning of which is purely leading to a scientific definition of what is qualified for an airborne infection. It precisely means the virus can’t disperse through particles smaller than 5 micrometres. However, this official stand has created a widespread confusion in dealing with the virus. “SARS-CoV-2 infects through aerosols, especially in enclosed spaces, it transmits to greater distances,” says the scientists who argue that the lack of data do not write off this possibility.
The South Korean healthcare system is creating a benchmark in the fight against COVID19 epidemic. They recommend the public wear a standard, sterilised surgical mask. Surgical masks are the disposable masks you find in your pharmaceutical stores. They are comfortable and cover the nose, mouth, and chin. The N95 respirators are tight face masks. These are the reliable source of protection against airborne viruses and bacteria. The South Korean officials also recommend you to wear goggles or spectacles as the virus can pass through your eyes to reach the mucous membrane. People are making masks at home because of the shortage of professional masks. But studies show that homemade masks are one third or half as effective as surgical masks. And they are 50 times less protective than N95 masks.