The coronavirus has globally affected communities across the world with millions of people infected and over 2.7 million deaths. While vaccines are now available in various countries, wearing face masks to reduce exposure to the virus will still remain one of the most effective measures as it will take time to vaccine everybody.
Moreover, variants might also slow down the vaccines campaign. Therefore, what type of mask is the most effective and when shall we wear them?
The general public should stick with medical masks
Surgical masks are the most common types of masks and protect against large-particle droplets, along with splatter contains various microorganisms including bacteria and viruses.
Used as protective barriers since the beginning of the pandemic, surgical masks are primarily worn by the general public and most of the states in the US and the governments worldwide urged the public the use these types of masks, rather than the cloth ones, as they offer better protection due to their 3-plies which keep bacteria, viruses, and other microbes away from entering our nose or mouth.
However, they shouldn’t be used more than once and shall be disposed of safely to prevent the viruses to spread out. While surgical masks have their limitations in terms of filtering small particles, they offer complete protection to the wearer, they are easy to breathe and are widely used for medical, dental, or clinical procedures including surgeries, as 3-plies masks are efficient to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2, reports The Kare Lab, a surgical mask manufacturer.
Use handmade masks if you do not have surgical masks
Handmade and clothes masks are made of fabric that is breathable, soft, and snugly fit around the mouth. It prevents exposure to the virus by slowing the spread and reducing transmission.
While they are the most affordable types of face masks as they can be washed and reused, but, as per the scope of authorization usage of facemasks by the FDA, these handmade and clothes masks cannot be used by healthcare professionals (HCP) as part of their PPE gear. The FDA recommends reserving respirators like N95 for HCP as they are exposed to biological pathogens while treating patients at hospital units.
Cloth masks contain two or three layers, tightly woven with inner filter pockets and they help prevent the spread of the virus to a certain extent and, if you have surgical masks around, better to use them since handmade and clothes masks are less effective.
As per the current pandemic situation, the CDC recommends wearing facemasks at public places and maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet to reduce the spread of the virus.
N95 masks shall be worn by healthcare workers only
N95 masks are the most effective masks against COVID19 as they filter 95% of airborne particles including viruses. They approved by the FDA and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and health agencies recommend that these masks should be given priority for healthcare workers as they are first responders and exposed more to infected patients.
N95 masks, also known as FFP2 in Europe or KN95 in China, contain polypropylene fabric woven with synthetic polymer fiber. They form an effective seal around the face and protect the wearers from a wide range of aerosol particles. However, they are designed for single-use as it shouldn’t be worn if it is contaminated with mucus.
Masks are critical in the prevention of novel coronavirus transmission as it offers protection and limits the spread of SARS nCoV-2 virus infection. The outbreak of the virus has led to devastating events and masks shall be worn to prevent the virus to spread, along with various measures such as vaccination and social distancing.