Face Masks: Covering up is the new normal
As the hunt for efficacious methods to cure, treat and prevent Covid-19 is on, health organizations across the world have amended their standpoint on one of the important preventive practices to avert or slow-down the spread of the threatening disease – USAGE OF MASKS. This transition was provoked by a new analysis showing that people without symptoms ‘asymptomatic’ can pass on the disease, and that usage of masks can minimize the amount of viral particles released and help ‘flatten the curve’.
Consequently, Masks and its make-do alternatives are swiftly becoming the ‘new normal’ all across the globe.
How does the Virus Spread ?
Being a respiratory virus, it’s transmitted through the respiratory droplets. Person-to-person contact is said to be the main method of transmission by the means of physical touch or the droplets as a result of coughing and sneezing. There are two ways through which the virus is transmitted - Firstly, in direct close contact scenario: one can get infected by being in close contact with the COVID-19 carriers (within one metre of the infected person), especially if they do not cover their face when coughing or sneezing. Secondly, in indirect contact scenario: the droplets survive on varied surfaces and clothes for many days as a cough or a sneeze can send respiratory droplets six feet into the air, but they are relatively heavy so they fall to the ground before getting further. Therefore, touching any such infected surface or cloth and then touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes can transmit the disease. This is where face masks come in handy as they are a part of an infection control strategy to eliminate cross-contamination.
How can a mask prevent the Virus ?
Apparently, many of the infected people are communicating the virus through coughs, sneezes and other respiratory droplets for 48 hours before they start feeling sick. And others who have the virus may never feel any sort of symptoms but may still be transmitting it. By wearing a mask, the nose and mouth area of the face gets enveloped which in turn helps to avoid respiratory droplets to reach the nostrils directly. If you cough or sneeze, the mask can catch those respiratory droplets so they don't land on other people or surfaces. Similarly, if people around you are wearing masks and the same thing happens, they are protecting you. So masks worn properly have the prospects of benefitting the wearers.
TYPES OF FACE MASKS
For Healthcare workers
Surgical Masks: A loose-fitting, disposable mask that is generally rectangular in shape and sits around your nose and mouth. The mask has elastic bands or ties that can be looped behind your ears or tied behind your head to hold it in place. A metal strip may be present at the top of the mask and can be pinched to fit the mask around your nose.
N95 Respirators: These fit tightly around your face and filter out 95% or more of the smallest particles in the air. But they have to fit just right in order to work.
For Non-Healthcare workers
Masks made out of fabric are best for people under this category as these are washable and can be reused.
Gideon Lasco, an anthropologist who has studied mask culture extensively, writes in the social science publication Sapiens: “Cultural values, perceptions of control, social pressure, civic duty, family concerns, self-expression, beliefs about public institutions, and even politics are all wrapped up in the ‘symbolic efficacy’ of face masks.”