What we currently understand about the effectiveness of face masks

30.10.2023 posted by Admin

Unmasking COVID19. The science behind face masks vital role

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, questions arose about whether wearing face masks really helped prevent the virus from spreading. Now, after three and a half years, what do we know from the scientific perspective?

During a 60 Minutes interview, CBS News' top medical expert, Dr. Jon LaPook, raised this question with Linsey Marr, an aerosol science specialist and professor at Virginia Tech University.

Marr pointed out that masks play a crucial role in reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 because they decrease the amount of virus you might breathe in from the air around you.

It's important to note that no mask can provide complete protection. For instance, the name "N95" signifies that it's at least 95% effective at blocking airborne particles when used correctly. However, even a mask with 80% efficiency, as Marr explained, still offers valuable protection.

According to Marr, this significantly lowers the likelihood of getting infected with the virus.

Marr's research indicates that high-quality masks can block particles of the same size as those carrying the coronavirus. Masks function as filters rather than sieves. The virus particles must navigate through layers of fibers, potentially colliding with these fibers and getting trapped in the process.

Marr used an analogy to clarify this concept, likening it to moving through a dense forest of trees. If you move slowly, it's relatively easy to navigate the surroundings. However, moving at high speed increases the chances of running into a tree.

Even cloth masks, according to Marr, contribute to this filtering process and provide a level of protection.

Can wearing contaminated face masks lead to infection?

At the start of the pandemic, some health experts suggested that wearing masks might pose a risk of infection. The concern was that individuals might come into contact with a contaminated mask and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. However, subsequent research has debunked this fear.

Marr mentioned that there wasn't any concrete evidence to support this claim. To confirm this, her team conducted experiments where they aerosolized the coronavirus, pulled it through various masks, and examined how much virus remained on the mask's surface. While some viral particles were found on certain cloth masks, no virus survived on N95s or surgical masks.

Her team also conducted tests involving artificial skin coming into contact with masks to see how many virus particles transferred. In all cases, no infectious virus was transferred.

In conclusion, Marr's research suggests that we don't need to worry as much about the risk of infection from contaminated masks as we were initially told.
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