Mandates for mask use in public during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, worsened by global shortage of commercial supplies, have led to widespread use of homemade masks and mask alternatives. It is assumed that wearing such masks reduces the likelihood for an infected person to spread the disease, but many of these mask designs have not been tested in practice.
It is assumed that wearing such masks reduces the likelihood for an infected person to spread the disease, but many of these mask designs have not been tested in practice.
Scientists at Duke University went about testing 14 different types of masks to determine which offers the best protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
They demonstrated a simple optical measurement method to evaluate the efficacy of masks to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech.
The team has found that bandannas, gaiters, and knitted masks are some of the least effective face coverings for preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The team conducted a proof-of-concept study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, wherein they revealed that the simple, low-cost technique provided visual proof that face masks are effective in reducing droplet emissions during normal wear.
N95 masks, which are often used by healthcare professionals, worked best to stop the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech.
Some of the best masks include three-layer surgical masks and cotton masks, which can be made at home, the researchers said.
According to the researchers, more research is needed to identify variations of results depending on the masks used, speakers, and how people wear them. However, the study provides an idea for companies on how to conduct mask testing to determine which masks are best for employees.
The team also emphasized that wearing a mask is a simple yet effective way to stem the spread of COVID-19. If everyone wore a mask, 99 percent of the respiratory droplets could be stopped before they reach another person.
This is essential since as many as 40 percent of infected people do not know they carry the virus and can transmit the virus to equally unsuspecting people. Wearing a mask by everyone can reduce the chance of asymptomatic transmission, wherein people who do not feel sick are infected with the virus. If they mingle with other people, there is a high chance they can transmit the dreaded virus.
Since as many as 40% of infected people don’t actually know they have the infection and therefore transmit the novel coronavirus to equally unsuspecting people they come in contact with, “knowing what does and does not stop transmission is critical, the researchers said. So is wearing a mask”.