In the Omicron wave of COVID-19, the question of quality and protection has arisen in the case of masks. Amidst the alarming increase of cases in India, people are often concerned, confused, and more significantly, misinformed about the kind of masks appropriate for such a catastrophe.
Omicron cases have risen meteorically across the country. In a country like India, where the population is a real issue, it is important to keep a track of the various masks, their efficacy, and availability in the market.
It is a type of respirator that meets the US standards of quality. It offers the highest form of protection. It is even higher than medical masks as it filters out particles, both large and small when the user breathes in. N95s can be worn for regular usage by the general public.
The masks can filter up to 95% of air droplets and particles, according to the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention). These masks can be reused because they do not have bodily fluids on them.
The Cloth Mask
A cloth mask features a simpler build, as it is designed to only trap the water droplets that are dispersed when the user speaks, coughs or sneezes. It also acts as a semi-permeable membrane to help prevent the user from inhaling droplets in the environment.
The most effective cotton masks are made up of multiple layers of tightly woven cotton. These multiple layers help impede the advance of air particulates. Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York commented, “Cloth masks are the most permeable and offer the least protection, but are better than no mask at all”.
Also Read: As Cases Rise, Masks Go Down: Will The Pandemic Ever End?
So What Is The Difference?
Compared to N95s, cloth Masks are simply untested and their capacity to resist air-borne particles varies from the density of the material used to make the mask.
The materials contain pores of varying sizes which makes it difficult to regulate its position as a viable alternative for N95s. Each coronavirus particle measures up to 0.12 micrometers while the pore size of cloth masks ranges from 20 to 500 micrometers.
The Danger And The Dispute
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, commented in her interview with CNN, “Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron.”
She had also said, “It’s not just with Omicron that we need better masks, it was with Delta, it was with Alpha before that,” Wen says. For her “Double masking, including a well-fitting cloth mask on top of a surgical mask, adds additional protection.”
Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, observed “If you really want no exposure, you have to wear the right type of mask”. For her, the N95s were the safest.
In the absence of N95s, she also recommends a double binding of masks, with a cloth mask worn tightly over a surgical mask. She sends a warning to the general public, “If everyone is just wearing a cloth mask or just a surgical mask, it won’t make any difference.”
Many health professionals, including Wen, have suggested that cloths masks are meant mainly for comfort and not for the protection of the highest order.
With the Omicron variant spreading three times faster than the other variations of Alpha and Delta, it is imperative for people to look out for quality and protective masks like the N95. The KN95, which has been approved in China, is also another option for protection from this airborne disease.
Image Sources: Google Images
Sources: CDC, Indian Express, CNN
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This post is tagged under: Designer Masks, Face Masks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid variant omicron, Covid-19 Mask, Covid-19 Spread In India, Covid 19 Pandemic, Double Mask, Mask N95, Triple Layer Mask
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