How Much Protection Do Surgical Masks Offer?

4 Mins read

Face masks have been said to go a long way in controlling the spread of the Covid-19 causing SARS-CoV-2. It is proven that face masks in combination with other measures, such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing can help control the spread of the virus.

Many people wonder about the efficacy of face masks and why they weren’t recommended from the very start of the pandemic. Experts and health governing bodies around the world claim that they didn’t know coronavirus could spread at such a massive scale before the first reports started pouring in.

This guide talks about how certain face masks offer protection against coronavirus.

There are three major categories of masks – surgical, N95 and cloth coverings. The level of protection offered by all three masks is different. This is how these face masks work.

Protection Offered by Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are also called medical masks just like the Wuhan virus is often called Covid-19. They are loose-fitting and can be easily disposed of. The mask helps in protecting the nose and mouth of the wearer from contact with potentially germs containing splashes, sprays, and droplets. Surgical masks also help in filtering out large aerosol particles. In fact, medical masks go a long way in helping protect others from exposure to respiratory secretions and saliva of the wearer.

The US Food and Drug Administration is yet to approve any particular type of surgical mask for protection against SARS-CoV-2. However, surgical masks are thought to be the best line of defense when N95 masks are not readily available.

However, it is important to purchase surgical masks from a reputed source. Read now to find the best place to purchase surgical masks.

Protection offered by Other Masks

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N95 mask is a type of respirator offering more protection than regular medical masks. This is because these masks are capable of filtering out both small and large particles. The mask helps in blocking 95% of small particles.

Health care providers are required to pass a fit test to ensure the N95 respirator has a proper seal. The masks are intended to be disposed of after a single wear like medical masks. However, researchers are trying out new ways of disinfecting N95 masks so that they can be used again.

Certain N95 masks come with a one-way valve to make it easier to breathe. However, the valve doesn’t filter air the wearer breathes out. This doesn’t prevent the spread of viruses. This is why many places have banned such N95 masks.

Cloth masks are intended to trap aerosols and droplets that get released when the wearer coughs, talks, or sneezes. The spread of viruses can be reduced if everyone wears a cloth mask. This is one of the reasons why cloth face coverings have been recommended for use widely in public settings.

The spread of the virus is slowed down successfully in countries where face masks, testing, social distancing, and isolation were recommended early on. Cloth face masks and coverings are easy to find, wash and reuse while N95 masks and surgical masks have been known to fall short in supply.

Scientific Evidence Relating to Efficacy of Surgical Masks

There are several strands of scientific evidence that supports the efficiency of masks. Several laboratory studies have been conducted to understand the ability of masks to block respiratory droplets. During an experiment involving a high-speed video capture mode, it was found that hundreds of thousands of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers are generated while speaking.

However, all of the droplets were found to be blocked by using a simple damp washcloth. In another study involving people with common cold or influenza, it was found that surgical masks could greatly reduce the amount of virus transmission in aerosol and droplets.

Another strong piece of evidence proving the efficacy of masks comes from real-world scenario studies. Epidemiologic data is among the most important data sources. In a recent study regarding the growth rate of Covid-19 in 15 US states published in Health Affairs it was found that mandatory mask regulations helped in slowing down the growth rate.

The study calculated the growth rate after the first five days. They found the growth rate slowed by 0.9% as compared to the growth rate before the mandate. The daily growth rate had slowed down by 2 percentage points after the first three weeks of the mandate.

surgical masks
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In another study, it was found that countries, government policies, and cultural norms that were in favor of mask-wearing, had lower death rates. The study involved data from over 198 countries. There are two compelling case reports as well that suggest mask wearing can prevent the transmission of coronavirus in high-risk scenarios.

In one case, a flier who tested positive for Covid-19 did not transmit the virus to anybody else because he wore a mask during the flight. The flier was on a flight from China to Toronto and had a dry cough. However, he kept his mask on, and all 25 people who came in contact with him during the flight test negative for coronavirus.

In late May, two Missouri hairstylists tested positive for Covid-19. They had come in close contact with over 140 clients. However, because everybody wore a mask, nobody else tested positive for Covid-19.

Masks Protect Everybody

A lot of people are confused about whether masks protect them or people around them. There is enough evidence to suggest that masks help in protecting the wearer as well as other people. In particular, medical masks can go a long way in protecting people from the Covid-19 virus. You can benefit and protect yourself if you don’t have coronavirus by wearing a mask. You can also prevent transmission to other people by wearing a mask if you tested positive for coronavirus.

Masks are an effective source control measure. This is because they can prevent the spread of large expelled droplets from breaking down into smaller droplets and traveling farther. Smaller aerosol particles tend to travel farther than heavier droplets. Masks play a crucial role in preventing this spread. Masks also prevent the aerosols from escaping into the air where they can infect eyes and other surfaces.


About author
Breanna, with the help and support of BeDoper's audience, provides fresh news on the tech and EdTech daily to your screen. Stay connected with Breanna on FB, Twitter, and Pinterest to spice up your feeds and productivate your time.
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