Who started the mask-wearing trend anyway?
- a) Vogue magazine in the 1920s
- b) Darth Vader in the 1970s
- c) Cinco de Mayo paraders in the 1860s
- d) a Polish surgeon in the 1890s
- e) the Good Food Fighter in the 2010s
- f) China in December 2019
Answer: d. After studying the transmission of infectious diseases like malaria and cholera, a German bacteriologist and hygienist demonstrated that tiny bacteria-laden droplets sprayed from the nose and mouth while talking and even breathing. This led in 1897 to the development and use of a simple gauze mask by a Polish surgeon. Mikulicz-Radecki’s innovations in enhancing safety during operations helped develop modern surgery. Here’s the history.
So what’s the deal with wearing a mask?
- Does wearing a mask protect you from catching the virus?
- Will mask wearing prevent the pandemic from spreading?
- Is the N95 mask better than a surgical mask?
- Are surgical masks more effective than homemade masks?
- Why is the CDC now advocated home-made masks over store-bought ones?
- If you take off your mask, can you safely put it on again later?
Last week the CDC reversed their position and recommended that every U.S. resident wear a mask while in public.
What the research shows:
- Masks cannot completely protect you from the Coronavirus but they prevent the wearer from infecting others.
- Your mask is most effective if there are no gaps between it and your face. Make sure your nose is covered.
- Wearing a mask is most critical in closed, poorly-ventilated spaces, especially when it’s hard to keep a safe distance from other people.
- Masks are most effective at protecting you if you wash your hands frequently.
- If your mask gets wet, discard it in a closed bin.
- Put on and take off mask using the loops so that you don’t touch the mask itself.
- Don’t put a mask on children under age 2.
- There is limited evidence that N95 is better than a surgical mask.
- It is preferable to use a surgical mask over a homemade one if you can find one; if making your own, follow instructions carefully.
- Wash hands before putting on and taking off mask to prevent contamination.
- Discard single use masks after each wear. According to hospital instructions given to medical staff in Austin, they may be reused if removed carefully by the loops and placed face down inside a paper bag with loops not touching front to “dry out” for 5 days. For cloth masks, put in washing machine or use soap and water to disinfect before re-using. (a UV light sterilizer is ideal if you have one.)
- If you touch your face under the mask while wearing it you can infect yourself.
- Virus transmission requires sustained face-to-face contact, so you can’t get it by jogging by someone. Prolonged, close contact with people who are (or may be) sick carries the highest risk.
How can you be a hero?
- Stay at home. Not indefinitely, but for now.
- Only go out for essentials…that includes exercise, which is essential!
- Stay 6 feet apart from other people. Be as considerate as possible.
- If you had a mask before this crisis, use it. Until supplies increase, save the N95 and surgical masks on the market for healthcare workers. Make your own cloth mask.
- If you have extra masks, donate them to a local hospital.
- Make masks using CDC instructions and donate them to a facility in need.
- Wear a mask if you are around elderly or immune-compromised people—family members included!
- Carry hand sanitizer and use it after touching things that other people touched.
- Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using foamy soap, especially after touching things that others’ touched.
- Don’t hoard things—leave some toilet paper for your neighbor. Same for hand sanitizer, pasta and sauce, and frozen vegetables.
- Encourage others to follow social distancing. Explain that it protects them and everyone else.
- If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, follow self-quarantine guidelines. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, follow proper isolation protocol.
- Work from home if you can. If you are an essential worker, wear a mask when you go out and practice good hygiene!
- Don’t travel if you can avoid it.
- Check in on people who are alone/older/vulnerable by phone or teleconference.
Your mask affords some protection if worn and handled correctly. But what gives you the most protection is when the people around you wear masks. Your mask protects them, and their masks protect you. Remember that you or your neighbor may be an asymptomatic carrier. So for now, we should all wear masks in public, especially in enclosed areas. If everyone wears a mask, the disease will stop spreading, because the virus will not be able to find new “hosts”.
Other GFF articles about the Coronavirus:
- Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks
- Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses: systematic review
- Facemasks for the prevention of infection in healthcare and community settings.
- Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Why does Taiwan have millions of visitors from China and only 45 Corona cases
- Coronavirus, social and physical distancing and self-quarantine.