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World Why some face masks are more effective than others

06:45  26 may  2020
06:45  26 may  2020 Source:   bbc.com

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 Coronavirus: Tests on hamsters in Hong Kong prove the effectiveness of masks "We now know that a large part of infected people do not show symptoms, so the universal wearing of the mask is really important", explained a expert in coronaviruses in Hong Kong © Nicolas Datiche / SIPA Illustration of surgical masks. EPIDEMIC - "We now know that a large part of infected people do not show symptoms, so universal wearing of the mask is really important," said a coronavirus expert in Hong Kong.

So why are they doing it anyway? The simplicity of those recommendations is likely unsettling to people anxious to do more to protect themselves, so it’s no surprise that face masks are in short supply—despite the CDC specifically not recommending them for healthy people trying to protect

The surgical masks were found to be three times more effective in blocking small particles than the T-shirts. Not a substitute for social distancing. Opt for masks that tie around the ear, rather than ones that have a standard elastic band. The ties can be adjusted to fit each face better than the elastic band.

a group of people posing for the camera: Facemasks in use at University Hospital Southampton © UHSFT Facemasks in use at University Hospital Southampton

While paper and cloth masks may help controlling the spread of Covid-19 amongst the general public, they're certainly not up to the mark for use in intensive care.

Here, where the risk of infection is at its greatest, medical staff need personal protective equipment of a far higher standard, capable of shielding them completely from the virus.

The simplest form of face covering is the surgical mask, generally made of three layers of paper or cloth. They're resistant to droplets such as those caused by coughing or sneezing, but give little protection against viral particles themselves, which are only around 100 nanometres in size (a nanometre being a billionth of a metre).

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Of the many preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from the new coronavirus, wearing a face mask is one of the most visible. "But it's not likely to be very effective in preventing it." Since the coronavirus outbreak started Wuhan, China, in December, more than 81,000 people have been

So, are face masks effective and if so, when should you wear them? Read on to learn the answers to this question and more . They’re better than not using any mask and offer some protection, especially where social distancing is hard to maintain. Risks of homemade face masks .

"A mask, which goes over your nose and mouth, but doesn't fit tightly to your face, is really there to be a barrier for any particles that you might expel," explains Dr Nikki McCullough, head of safety for 3M, one of the world's biggest suppliers of respiratory protection. "The mask isn't going to prevent you from breathing in very small particles."

a man wearing a blue hat: Medical staff working in intensive care need the highest-rated masks © Getty Images Medical staff working in intensive care need the highest-rated masks

Respirators, on the other hand, are designed to fit tightly to the face, so that no air can leak in or out, and require a rigorous fitting process.

"When you breathe in, all the air goes through the filter media, and that filter media has been tested to a performance standard," says Dr McCullough. "So you can be sure that if you get a good seal to your face, the respirator is reducing the number of particles that you're going to breathe into your lungs."

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Now that we are facing a respirator mask shortage, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” for health care workers — again, obviously because some protection, even if imperfect, is better than none. In the face of

A person is more likely to get infected by touching contaminated surfaces than from a droplet But there is no evidence that face masks are effective in preventing healthy people from becoming ill Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and

Respirators come in various different forms, the simplest being mask-like filtering facepiece (FFP) respirators; some are designed to be disposable, whereas others can be disinfected and reused.

In the US, FFP respirators are classified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in terms of the percentage of particles they filter out. Thus, N95 and N99 masks filter out 95% and 99% of particles respectively, while N100 devices eliminate 99.97%.

In Europe, respirators are classified slightly differently. Respirators rated FFP1 filter out at least 80% of particles; FFP2s remove at least 94%, and FFP3 devices correspond to N100 by filtering out at least 99.97%.

Meanwhile, similar to an FFP3 mask in effectiveness, but certainly not in appearance, are diving helmet-style powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs).

"There you have a more comprehensive solution. There's a hood face shield and a tube that would connect into a unit on the belt," says Brian Hovey, chief marketing officer for major respirator manufacturer Honeywell Safety.

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How truly effective are masks , and when should people consider donning them? To that end, she offers disposable gloves as a more effective form of prevention when traveling than the There are some situations when wearing a mask makes more practical sense than others .

But wearing a face mask is not necessarily an effective option for everyone. These types of masks are often used when air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke or pollution. When you are around others , the CDC suggests wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure to avoid spreading germs.

Basic masks do not offer much protection © Honeywell Basic masks do not offer much protection

"That has an engine or a motor that pumps air through a filter: it's part of a white suit, so it's a more comprehensive protective solution."

At the University of Southampton, engineers have developed a PAPR that they're supplying to University Hospital Southampton - 1,000 are already in use.

It's currently undergoing the official rating and approval process, so it's not yet in use in intensive care or triage, where FFP3 respirators are required. However, two firms are making them and 5,000 have been ordered for staff in other settings.

The testing process involved both a smell test to see whether the wearer could detect outside smells, as well as a physical test of whether tiny particles are indeed filtered out.

"We put a petri dish inside the hood and another one outside, and delivered 1,000 litres of air through the filter," explains Alex Dickinson, an associate professor in the university's bioengineering science research group.

"We incubated them for 24 hours at 37C and then counted how many of these colony-forming units had been transmitted through the filter and hood. On our first experiment, we saw no units of bacterial growth inside the hood, but ten formed on the control plate outside."

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A more specialized mask , known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask He noted that some people wear surgical masks because they are sick with a cold or the flu and they don't want to get other people sick.

3. Face masks are probably most effective at moisturizing your skin. Because of their occlusive design, face masks are good at moisturizing the skin. “Even if you were to just put a mask on Face masks deliver ingredients deeper and more potently to the skin than other types of applications, so

The British Standards Institute is currently evaluating the device against European standards, after which, hopes the team, it can be used more widely at Southampton and elsewhere.

"Your vision is much better, and your communication is better, as the patient can see your whole face; your efficiency is much better as you can move from patient to patient without putting on and taking off your PPE," says hospital consultant and professor in respiratory medicine Paul Elkington.

A mask developed by the University of Southampton is under production © Persos A mask developed by the University of Southampton is under production

"Once we started rolling it out, one of the healthcare assistants said to me 'I've been feeling sick with nerves about coming in, but now I feel secure'."

Until recently, the market for respirators was mainly industrial - manufacturing, construction and the like.

"If we look at six months ago, with full-face respirators - FFP2s and FFP3s - demand from healthcare was very low," says Dr McCullough. "They really only used them for tuberculosis, maybe a measles case. But now we see that healthcare everywhere in the world is using respirators at a much, much higher rate."

As a result, manufacturers have been working flat out to increase capacity to meet the new demand.

"We've made significant investment in both ramping up capacity at our existing facilities as well as new facilities. Most notably, in the US, we've just had our first products coming off the line in our Smithfield, Rhode Island facility, and we hit 500,000 units earlier this past week," says Honeywell's Brian Hovey.

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"Similarly, we've ramped up our build capacity and we're starting to get product out in Phoenix. These new facilities are adding about 20 million units per month, and we're evaluating potential new facilities around the globe."

a wooden table: Honeywell has boosted production of masks © Honeywell Honeywell has boosted production of masks

Dr McCullough says that 3M is also increasing production, adding extra shifts and improving efficiency.

"We can make the same products but more quickly; we are adding new lines and we are looking at some small changes to certain products, looking at new headbands, for example," she says.

So will the global supply hold up?

"In the immediate term, probably not, unfortunately - the uptick we've seen has been unprecedented and depending on how people are thinking of them as a consumer product, demand far outstrips global supply," says Mr Hovey.

But, he adds, "We're having a good dialogue with governments around preparing for the future, and we make sure that strategic stockpiles are adequately supplied.

"If - god forbid - another situation like this occurs, collectively we'll be able to respond quickly and effectively."

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