Effective face mask practices to reduce spread of Covid-19, including new variants
A new study notes some effective mask practices that can help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and its variants. Published in the American Journal of Infection Control, and the Journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the study mentioned how the reduction in the spread of respiratory infectious pathogens can reduce Omicron cases too.
As per the paper’s lead author Francoise M Blachere, MSc., Research Biologist, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the performance of face masks as devices that control infection spread depends upon both the ability of the mask material to filter aerosols, and on how well the mask fits the wearer.
Conducting a variety of experiments that simulated coughs and exhalations, researchers measured the efficiency of masks at blocking respiratory aerosols.
Notably, face masks help reduce the transmission of respiratory aerosols and droplets produced during activities such as talking, breathing and coughing. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a mask that is multi-layered, covers the nose and mouth and forms a tight seal against the face.
The study concluded that a three-ply cloth mask over a medical mask (double masking), or securing a medical mask with an elastic brace provided the best protection against respiratory aerosols.
The results showed that while medical masks without modification blocked less than 56 per cent of cough aerosols and less than 42 per cent of exhaled aerosols, placing a cloth mask over a medical mask blocked more than 85 per cent of cough aerosols and more than 91 per cent of exhaled aerosols. Whereas, adding a brace over a medical mask blocked more than 95 per cent of cough aerosols and more than 99 per cent of exhaled aerosols.
“Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been considerable confusion about the most effective use of face masks, especially among the general public, to reduce the spread of infection,” said Ann Marie Pettis, BSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC, and APIC 2021 president.
The study also noted how earloop strap, or knotting and tucking the mask, also increased effectiveness as compared to medical masks without modification.
Notably, even as vaccinations continue to be administered, the only way to fight the condition is through precautions and preventive measures. The best way to do that apart from handwashing and hygiene is wearing masks properly.
In an Instagram Reel, Dr Shriram Nene, cardiothoracic surgeon and healthcare innovator, demonstrated how to wear the different types of masks properly.
“Two cloth masks worn one over the other, or one N95 mask,” he said while stating that “do not put the masks under the nose, or just cover the mouth, and certainly not over your eyes.”
According to Dr Jyoti Mutta, senior consultant, Microbiology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, while an N-95 mask with proper fitting can ensure adequate level of safety, a double-layered mask is considered a good option. “That is also because we have witnessed that the masks many people are wearing are either quality compromised or they are too loose and hanging down from their nose,” she said.
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