Which mask should I use? Will my protection increase if I use two of them? Here’s the advice from TecSalud specialists and the findings of a German study.
According to the latest update from the Ministry of Health (Ssa), this wave of Covid-19 infections has exceeded the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. Which face masks do experts recommend for Omicron?
According to various studies, wearing a face mask is the most effective method for preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, even considering leakage.
During TecSalud’s Covid Update program, Dr. Alejandro Macías, Mexico’s former influenza commissioner, discussed the level of protection of different face masks.
Additionally, a German study has shown the risk of infection when using KN95 or FFP2 face masks during a face-to-face encounter with a positive case.
According to Alejandro Macías, “Cloth masks don’t provide enough protection” and have been found to provide the least amount of protection, just above clear face shields (visors), which don’t cover the mouth and nose.
Although the advantage of cloth masks is that: “They’re better than nothing, even if they offer minimal protection,” explains Macías.
Surgical masks that come in blue or green provide the next highest level of protection.
The third level is the combination of a surgical mask and a cloth mask, as long as the latter helps to better fix the former. The use of a cloth mask with a nose wire (so that it fits the bridge of your nose) is recommended.
And the highest level of protection is offered by N95 masks. If you have the opportunity to use one, the specialist recommends you tie it behind the nape of your neck.
Alejandro Macías also highlights the level of protection provided by KN95 face masks of Chinese origin but urged the population to make sure they’re not fake ones.
The study by various institutes and laboratories in Göttingen, Germany, showed the exact risk of infection while wearing a mask during close personal encounters or social distancing without a mask.
This model compared the infected person wearing the same face mask, as well as a susceptible person with different variables, such as when fitted perfectly to the face and when not adjusted.
A well-fitted KN95 mask offers the highest protection. According to the study, there’s a 0.1% risk of infection from a face-to-face encounter.
Meanwhile, FFP2 masks have a 0.4% risk.
Surgical masks come in second place for protection against an infected person. According to the study’s risk models, there is a 10% risk to the person after 20 minutes of exposure.
Finally, with no mask, there’s a 100% risk after only five minutes of exposure.
Results from the German study showed that the right face masks significantly reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to social distancing.
What’s more, the risk is very low when everyone is wearing a face mask, even if they’re not fitted perfectly to the face.
To calculate exposure and infection risk, they used a comprehensive database on respiratory particle size distribution; exhalation flow physics; and leakage from face masks of various types and snugness measured on human subjects.
What’s more, they considered ambient particle shrinkage due to evaporation and rehydration, inhalability, and deposition in the susceptible airways.
“Wearing the correct face mask in your community provides excellent protection to those around you as well as yourself,” the researchers said.
According to a study carried out by the University of Ulsan in South Korea, KF94 masks provide a similar level of protection to N95 masks.
Their results indicate that both KF94 and N95 masks effectively blocked transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Surgical masks were “markedly” less effective.