Compulsory use of masks can slow down COVID-19 infection

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Neucrad Health June 23, 2020

Nowadays, whenever we step out of the house, we meet a crowd of people wearing facemasks to safeguard themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of most countries has made it mandatory for masses to wear masks at outdoor locations so that they do not transmit the virus to others or themselves get infected. Even though lockdown measures have eased in many nations, these protective features will continue in coming days to prevent the second wave of the outbreak. It is high time to inculcate these hygienic measures amongst the population to protect them from the future onslaughts of the pandemic.

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What are the benefits of wearing masks?

According to recent research conducted by the University of Cambridge, mandatory use of face covers can limit the spread of the pandemic. A modelling study proves that it successfully reduces the “reproduction number” or R0 to below 1. The report also stresses that even cloth masks are 90 per cent effective in preventing transmission. [1]

Lockdown alone is not enough to arrest the outbreak. A sizeable portion of the population is asymptomatic carriers of the virus. They do not know that they have been exposed to the pathogen, and have the potential of transmitting the virus to others. In such a situation, wide-scale use of face covers can prevent the vulnerable group from becoming infected. Even if 100 per cent population wear a mask of 75 per cent efficiency, it can successfully bring down the R0 to below 1. There is a popular notion doing rounds in the society- “my facemask protects you, your facemask protects me”.

What is the R0 of the virus?

R0 or “R naught,” is the Mathematical representation of the reproduction number of a pathogen. It tells us the number of people that will get infected from a person who has already caught the disease. For example, if we consider that the R0 of an infection is 3. It suggests that an infected patient will transmit the pathogen to three other people. The R0 value helps us to establish the contagious rate of a microbe.

What is the significance of the R0 value of the virus in the COVID-19 pandemic?

In respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are three possibilities of the future consequences of the R0 value:

  •        If R0 is less than 1, then the infection will ultimately decline and fade out in the population as less than 1 person gets infected from a carrier.
  •      If R0 is equal to 1, then the infection will stay live and stable as a similar number of people will get infected with every passing day.
  •      If R0 is more than 1, then the number of people getting infected will rise exponentially, and the pandemic will stay in the society for a prolonged period.

However, all the above speculations remain true when:

  •        No individuals have received vaccines against the infection
  •        Everyone has freshly acquired the disease
  •        There is no prevalent cure for the infection

What are the different types of face masks available in the market?

There are three types of masks currently available in the market.

Cloth Mask

They are made of two-ply cotton cloth (thick cotton cloth) and an elastic lace to tie it around the ears. These masks are reusable and most economical of all the face covers.

Surgical Mask

Medical professionals like doctors and nurses most use these masks to prevent liquid droplets and aerosols from them to come in contact with patients. In COVID-19 pandemic, these face masks also safeguard the medical fraternity from the infection.

N95 Mask

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the N95 masks are 95 per cent effective in preventing the entry of pathogens through them. Similarly, there are also N99 and N100 mask available for professionals working in high-risk zones like the COVID-19 testing laboratories.

Always wear a face cover and practise social distancing to protect yourself from the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

References:

  1. A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lockdown’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic

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