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COVID-19 Pandemic: Researchers Study Various Mask Protection Against Coronavirus

According to researchers at the University of North Carolina, limiting the amount of virus is important because the more viral particles people are exposed to, the more likely it is that they will get sick and potentially severely ill

COVID-19 Pandemic: Researchers Study Various Mask Protection Against Coronavirus
  • Some masks were as much as 79% effective at blocking virus: Researchers
  • Interaction with unmasked infected person can cause transmission: Expert
  • Masks should fit the wearer well to provide maximum protection: Expert

Washington: In a recent study, scientists researched the protectiveness of various kinds of consumer-grade and modified masks, assuming the wearer was exposed to the novel coronavirus, like when we interact with an unmasked infected person. The UNC (University of North Carolina) School of Medicine scientists, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, led the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The research shows that some masks were as much as 79 per cent effective at blocking particles that could carry the virus. These were masks made of two layers of woven nylon and fit snug against the wearer’s face.

Watch: Any Mask Will Become Useless If Not Used Properly: Gaurav Logani

Unmodified medical procedure masks with ear loops – also known as surgical masks – offered 38.5 per cent filtration efficacy, but when the ear loops were tied in a specific way to tighten the fit, the efficacy improved to 60.3 per cent. And when a layer of nylon was added, these masks offered 80 per cent effectiveness.

While modifications to surgical masks can enhance the filtering capabilities and reduce inhalation of airborne particles by improving the fit of the mask, we demonstrated that the fitted filtration efficiencies of many consumer-grade masks were nearly equivalent to or better than surgical masks, said co-first author Phillip Clapp, PhD, an inhalation toxicologist and assistant professor of paediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine.

Co-first author Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of infection prevention at the UNC Medical Center, added,

Limiting the amount of virus is important because the more viral particles we’re exposed to, the more likely it is we will get sick and potentially severely ill.

As the adoption of face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic became commonplace, there was a rapid expansion in the public use of commercial, home-made, and improvised masks which vary considerably in design, material, and construction.

There have been a number of innovative “hacks,” devices, and mask enhancements that claim to improve the performance characteristics of conventional masks – typically surgical or procedure masks. Despite their widespread dissemination and use during the pandemic, there have been few evaluations of the efficiency of these face coverings or mask enhancements at filtering airborne particles.

In this study, the researchers used a recently described methodological approach based on the OSHA Fit Test to determine the fitted filtration efficiency (FFE) of a variety of consumer-grade and improvised facemasks, as well as several popular modifications of medical procedure masks.

Also Read:COVID-19: IIT Bhubaneswar Study Confirms Effectiveness Of Face Mask, Social Distancing Norms

Seven consumer-grade masks and five medical procedure mask modifications were fitted on an adult male, and FFE measurements were collected during a series of repeated movements of the torso, head, and facial muscles as outlined by the OSHA Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol.

Here are the different mask types with filtration efficacy. Bolded below is the top-of-the-line N-95 mask, which proved to be 98 per cent effective. Consumer-grade facemasks:

2-layer woven nylon mask, ear loops, w/o aluminium nose bridge: 44.7 per cent2-layer woven nylon mask, ear loops, w/ aluminium nose bridge: 56.7 per cent2-layer woven nylon mask, ear loops, w/ nose bridge, 1 non-woven insert: 74.4 per cent2-later woven nylon mask, ear loops, w/ nose bridge, washed, no insert: 79 per cent
Cotton bandana – folded Surgeon General style: 50 per cent Cotton bandana – folded “Bandit” style: 49 per cent Single-layer woven polyester gaiter/neck cover (balaclava bandana): 37.8 per cent Single-layer woven polyester/nylon mask with ties: 39.7 per cent Non-woven polypropylene mask with fixed ear loops: 28.6 per cent. Three-layer woven cotton mask with ear loops: 26.5 per cent Medical facemasks and modifications:3M 9210 NIOSH-approved N95 Respirator: 98 per cent Surgical mask with ties: 71.4 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops: 38.5 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops + “loops tied and corners tucked in”: 60.3 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops + “Ear Guard”: 61.7 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops + “23mm claw hair clip”: 64.8 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops + “Fix-the Mask (3 rubber bands)”: 78.2 per cent Procedure mask with ear loops + “nylon hosiery sleeve”: 80.2 per cent.

Also Read:Air Pollution And COVID-19: Is It About Time To Shift From Cloth Mask To Pollution Safe N95 Or N99 Mask?

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fightmalnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene.

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