Most of us are updated enough with the progress of the pandemic to know that the coronavirus has been mutating over time as well. The symptoms of Covid-19 were only limited to the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system during its advent, however, new variants have gone on to affect the heart, the kidneys, the brain, and other organs of the body as well. Naturally, the death rate has therefore increased as well.
This is not all though, the availability of vaccines across the globe has been a constant source of relief for most of us, however, there is news that new strains of coronavirus are immune to some of the vaccines as well. For example, the variant identified from South Africa, known as the B.1.351 is only affected minimally by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Otherwise, the AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy of around 63%. Naturally, this will hold for most other vaccines and new strains as well.
In this precarious situation, we need to look no further than the protection we get from our face masks. These include surgical masks and N95 masks. The masks, when worn in public, will effectively help in controlling the spread of the virus no matter how much the strain has mutated because the virus cannot get past the filter provided by the mask.
Which Mask is Better?
While the N95 masks and the surgical mask are both highly effective in preventing the virus, the N95 is more effective because it fits snugly around the face. This may cause breathing problems for some people that’s how are can be sure the mask is working.
Surgical masks are equally as effective in preventing the spread of the virus through the mask, however, since surgical masks do not fit as snugly as N-95 masks do, there is a slightly higher chance of virus transmission.
To prevent surgical masks from failing, you can try a technique called double masking. Double masking occurs when a person wears two masks, one on top of the other, at the same time. Double masking makes the masks fit tightly around the mouth and the nose and almost eliminates any chance of virus transmission.
As long as the pandemic stays and the virus continues to be transmitted between people, mutations in the virus cannot be prevented. The chances of coming up with a single vaccine that can ward off any strain of the virus and is 100% effective is not a realistic ideal to achieve.
However, what we can do is continue the responsible use of face masks for as long as the pandemic goes on and take good care of our mental health. It is a much better way to prevent contracting the disease and risk losing your life. We even advise people who have been vaccinated to continue their use of face masks because of the new variants that might become rampant soon.
- Jain U. Effect of COVID-19 on the Organs. Cureus. 2020 Aug;12(8).
- Zhou D, Dejnirattisai W, Supasa P, Liu C, Mentzer AJ, Ginn HM, Zhao Y, Duyvesteyn HM, Tuekprakhon A, Nutalai R, Wang B. Evidence of escape of SARS-CoV-2 variant B. 1.351 from natural and vaccine-induced sera. Cell. 2021 Feb 23.
- Rowan NJ, Moral RA. Disposable face masks and reusable face coverings as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variants that cause Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): role of new sustainable NPI design innovations and predictive mathematical modelling. Science of the Total Environment. 2021 Feb 1:145530.
- Brooks JT, Beezhold DH, Noti JD, Coyle JP, Derk RC, Blachere FM, Lindsley WG. Maximizing fit for cloth and medical procedure masks to improve performance and reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission and exposure, 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2021 Feb 19;70(7):254.