How effective and safe is a mask?

30 May
Masks (Image, ref Atrium Health)

Being a surgeon, I understand the issues surrounding, wearing a mask. Most people who are now donning a mask to protect themselves against Covid, have never used it before and find it quite uncomfortable beyond a few minutes. This results in them adjusting the mask all the time, and I worry this is a dangerous situation. I have some thoughts and felt I should pen them down here.

The Mask is primarily effective in reducing the spread of droplets containing Covid virus when a Covid infected person wearing a mask, coughs or sneezes etc. The droplets now, will not be able to travel far and infect those around. But if you are not infected and are wearing a mask in a crowd, the ability of the mask to stop virus laden droplets to enter through your nose is very limited. If you think about it, even if the mask provides a good barrier, the virus will sit on the outer surface of the mask and the first instance when you adjust the mask, it will spread to your hands and then to your face.

The important point is that a mask does not give you a lot of protection against an infected neighbouring person. There is some protection but moment you adjust the mask with your hands, the protection is compromised. Then, what should we be doing? In my opinion we should regard the outer surface of the mask as infected at all times and avoid touching it at all. After any visit etc, we should immediately dispose off the mask in a closed bin, or soak it in soap water, and wash our hands thoroughly before touching our face. Also, we should not bring a mask inside our homes. A partially used mask lying around our homes can become a source of virus.

Bottom line is, we need to use masks, but we need to use them safely. Fomites on masks can spread the infection very easily to yourself and those close to you. So, TAKE CARE…