Use of masks during the COVID-19 scare
The spread of Coronavirus or Covid-19 across the globe has incited anxiety and a situation of panic among common people worldwide including India. With an increasing number of cases every day across countries, WHO on Mar 11th, 2020 declared Covid-19 outbrak a pandemic. Unprecedented measures are being taken to prevent the rise of new cases by every country. As the Covid-19 virus spreads through the respiratory tract, awareness of the usage of a mask becomes important to contain the infections. Healthy people are using different types of masks to prevent infections.
Letâ€™s talk about the two types of masks, which are usually available in the market but are currently, running out of stock due to growing coronavirus scare among the people.
Usual Surgical Masks are very commonly used in hospitals by doctors and supporting staff while operating a patient or performing any sterile procedure. The purpose of these surgical masks is to prevent spreading oneâ€™s infection to others and not to prevent yourself from getting infected from others. When a person wears this mask there is still a chance to getting infected as the microorganisms which are around 500 microns of size can easily pass through the pores of the mask. Hence, the common surgical mask is not advisable to prevent the infection from other infected people. It can only provide a psychological satisfaction to the person wearing it.
The mask might be useful only in case of large droplet infections, however, the person has to be careful while wearing it. Once this mask gets moist, the chances of infection for the person wearing it may increase due to the sticking of bacterias and viruses on the mask. Only if a person is suffering from cough and cold, he/she should wear this surgical mask, and he/she should be careful while discarding it. This surgical mask can also be worn in cases where the patient is wearing the same mask as you, as in such cases, the chances of infections transmission reduce.
N95 Mask is the other type of mask, which is capable of filtering out 95% of the infectve particles of upto 2.5 microns in size. The COVID-19 virus is still smaller in size and can pass through N95 mask but not in much quantity. However, it is to be noted that the N95 mask is only to be used by the healthcare providers such as doctors, nurses, related staff members who are attending a patient either in ICU or undergoing a procedure as the procedures liberate a lot of droplets in the air.
These masks should be left for use only for the hospital staff who are treating infected patients and should not be hoarded at home as is been done currently by many individuals. The hoarding of masks will lead us to the stage where the masks are off the counters and without masks the healthcare professionals would not even be able to enter the rooms of suffering patients.
Another reason which makes these masks counterproductive for individuals is that the masks when worn should form a proper seal and should be airtight but the people keep shifting the masks up and down on the face and touch the external surface of the mask to adjust it and then touch their eyes and face with those bare hands. This can lead to the spread of infection and can be highly dangerous in todayâ€™s time of COVID-19 spread.
This blog is by Dr. Vivek Nangia, Director & Head of Pulmonology, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine department and is associated with Fortis Vasant Kunj Hospital in New Delhi.
To know more about COVID-19, watch this Video (click here) by Dr. Vivek Nangia.