As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact life on a global scale, the introduction of protective face masks, and questions around wearing them, have caused heated debate.
There’s mounting evidence that face masks can help prevent coronavirus transmission and ultimately save lives, however, not all masks provide the same level of protection.
Whether you’re rocking medical-grade, an at-home sewing project, or a humble face scarf – here are all the different face masks, ranked by effectiveness. Hear all about the face masks debate below:
According to Business Insider, the World Health Organisation recommends medical masks for healthcare workers, elderly people, people with underlying health conditions or those who have tested positive for the virus or show symptoms.
Researchers found that the N99 mask can reduce a person’s risk of infection by 94-99% after 20 minutes in a highly contaminated environment. N95 masks offers a similar level of protection, however it’s important to note that masks with valves have been criticised as they do not protect those around you.
Disposable surgical masks – made from non-woven fabric – can reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets and smaller aerosols and are reportedly about three times more effective than homemade face masks.
Apparently, combining two layers of 600-thread-count cotton with a material like silk, chiffon or flannel is effective in filtering particles.
The World Health Organisation have stated that for homemade masks to be effective, they need three layers – an inner layer to absorb, a middle layer that filters and an outer layer that is non-absorbent.
Scarves and T-Shirt Masks
In an interview with Business Insider, infectious-disease physician Dr. Ramzi Asfour said, “if you’re making a cloth mask from 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, that’s different than making it from a cheap t-shirt that’s not very finely woven.”
UK Researchers have found that a single layer of cotton is among one of the least effective materials at blocking COVID-19 particles.
Scarves and t-shirts can reportedly reduce infection risk by 44% after 30 seconds exposed to the virus. After 20 minutes, the risk reduction drops to 24%.
Speaking to University of California San Francisco, infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong, MD, said, “The concept is risk reduction rather than absolute prevention.”
“You don’t throw up your hands if you think a mask is not 100 percent effective. That’s silly. Nobody’s taking a cholesterol medicine because they’re going to prevent a heart attack 100 percent of the time, but you’re reducing your risk substantially.”
As masks become mandatory in Victoria and have already been enforced in other parts of the world, it’s important we understand the efficacy of the different kinds, but also how they help to protect others as we fight to control outbreaks of COVID-19.
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