Face masks can be highly effective tools in restricting the spread of the coronavirus, but experts say some facial coverings are more effective than others.
Researchers at Duke University found a few surprises in their new study that examined how efficient different types of face coverings were in preventing the spread of speech-driven viruses. For example, they found that pulling fleece over your face is actually worse than wearing no mask at all.
While a good quality mask can stop 99% of virus-laden droplets from being transmitted into the air, the number of particles measured through fleece covering was higher than the number of particles measured with people not wearing any mask, according to the New York Daily News. Folded bandanas weren’t any better.
The best protection was offered by the N95 masks without a valve followed by three-layered surgical masks and the do-it-yourself cotton masks people are making. Here’s a video on how to construct one at home.
The Duke researchers tested 14 commonly available masks by using a simple setup procedure that recorded that number of droplets emitted when a person speaks. When a person spoke through the fleece mask, large droplets were dispersed that dissolved into a multitude of smaller, highly transmissible droplets that could easily spread the virus. N95 masks with valves also encouraged a strong outward flow of germs, said the researchers.
This confirms earlier evidence that N95 masks with valves may actually do more harm than good. According to Fox News, the San Francisco Department of Public Health took to Twitter to warn residents that N95 masks with valves or openings in the front aren’t safe.
“Still seeing a lot of these masks out there, it is confusing, because they are called N95 — but the ones with the valves or openings on the front are NOT safe, and may actually propel your germs further!” the tweet read, according to Fox News.
“If everyone wore a mask, we could stop up to 99% of these droplets before they reach someone,” said Dr. Eric Westman, one of the Duke researchers, according to the Daily News. “In the absence of a vaccine or antiviral medicine, it’s the one proven way to protect others as well as yourself.
Dr. Martin Fischer, co-author of the study told CNN:
“We want to emphasize that we really encourage people to wear masks but we want them to wear masks that actually work.”
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