Mask mandates were applied almost immediately in various parts of the world when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the WHO. Since then, face masks have become almost a part of our daily attire. A year has passed since the world was declared to be in a pandemic situation, and now it just feels a little awkward to leave the house without a mask.
It is now time to discuss how masks prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus or any air-borne disease for that matter.
How Do Masks Prevent the Spread of Viruses?
There have been countless lab tests carried out over the years which can attest to the efficacy of face masks. And this is not just true for surgical masks and N95 masks, we can also assume this for cloth masks that are so popular now. People wearing surgical masks for illnesses such as the flu were also studied and the mask acted as a barrier, preventing the transmission of more than 90% of the disease-carrying droplets.
Laboratory tests are not as convincing as statistics, though. We need to study data gathered in real-life situations where wearing a facemask helped with the prevention of the virus. CDC released a study that showed that three weeks of applying the mask mandate dropped down the rate of covid growth by 2%. Studies also showed that places where the government favored mask-wearing in public places also had lower death rates.
The mechanism behind the effectiveness of facemasks is very straightforward as well. Surgical masks are 3 and 4 ply, meaning that they have three or four layers that act as barriers to the transmission of the virus. Cloth masks have also been proven to be somewhat effective recently for the same reason however they lack the fluid/resistant properties that surgical or N95 masks have.
What is the Best Mask to Wear to Prevent the Spread of the Virus?
There was a certain obsession with the type of mask that needs to be worn during this trying time for maximum effectiveness. Many people stuck with cloth masks because they could be used multiple times and also be washed, while many people also began using N95 masks daily.
We need to keep in mind that the type of mask we use has more to do with combination of comfort, fit and effectiveness. Surgical masks take the cake when it comes to comfort since they can be adjusted to fit properly around the nose and mouth and they are also lightweight enough to be worn comfortably every day. The added benefit is that they are fluid/droplet resistant due to nonwoven material properties that the cloth masks don't possess. Surgical masks, just like N95 masks, are required to be FDA Registered.
N95 masks, though extremely effective, are quite uncomfortable to wear because of how snugly they fit around the nose and mouth. They make breathing as well as talking quite difficult for the average person. Therefore, one should test several N95 masks to find the one that fits the best, optimizing the effectiveness of the mask.