Loose Women: Denise Welch goes on ‘rant’ about face masks
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Face masks are already in use in the UK and are right now mandatory in certain public places to reduce the spread of coronavirus. But what if there were a way of knowing which face masks provide the best means of stopping the deadly virus from spreading. A study’s findings have been published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), the journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), which investigates just this.
It identified that specific face mask combinations and fit modifications can be implemented by healthcare workers, patients and the public to improve mask fit as well as performance.
Diseases like COVID-19 are transmitted by respiratory aerosols and droplets produced during activities like talking, breathing and coughing.
It is recommended masks should be multi-layered, cover the nose and mouth, and for a tight seal against the face.
Francoise M. Blachere, MSc., Research Biologist, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the paper’s lead author, said: “The performance of face masks as devices that control infection spread depends upon both the ability of the mask material to filter aerosols and on how well the mask fits the wearer.”
The researchers used both human subjects and simulator manikins to evaluate the performance of various different mask types, combinations, and modifications.
They conducted a number of different experiments that simulated coughs and exhalations, and then measured how effective the masks were at blocking respiratory aerosols.
The results showed that layering a three-ply cloth mask over a medical mask, also called double masking, or securing a medical mask with an elastic brace, offered the best protection against respiratory aerosols.
Medical masks without modification blocked more than 56 percent of cough aerosols and more than 42 percent of exhaled aerosols.
Putting a cloth mask over a medical mask blocked 85 percent of cough aerosols and 91 percent of exhaled aerosols.
Adding a brace over a medical mask blocked 95 percent of cough aerosols and 99 percent of exhaled aerosols.
The researchers found that using earloop toggles or an earloop strap, or knotting and tucking the mask, also increased how effective the mask was, compared to medical masks without modification.
Two other mask-fit modifications, crossing the earloops or placing a bracket under the mask, did not increase performance.
Ann Marie Pettis, APIC President said: “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been considerable confusion about the most effective use of face masks, especially among the general public, to reduce the spread of infection.
“The NIOSH study findings are important and timely because they identify specific, practical combinations of face masks and mask modifications that may improve mask seal and thereby measurably reduce the expulsion of infectious aerosols into the environment.”
In England, face coverings are now required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, including taxis.
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The return of mandatory face masks was announced after Boris Johnson raised the alarm about the potential danger of the new Omicron variant that has arrived in the UK.
The new strain has now over taken the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in London.
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