Face Masks Can Reduce the Distance Airborne Viruses Travel by Half

The efficacy of face masks has been a contentious subject ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. A study however provides more proof that masks work. The researchers discovered that the distance airborne pathogens can travel is reduced by more than half when wearing face masks while coughing or speaking, in comparison to without a mask.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiab609

The results are significant as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as other airborne viral pathogens can be encapsulated and transmitted by the aerosols and liquid droplets formed while coughing and speaking.

Recognizing methods to reduce the distance of this transmission can help keep individuals safe and help to manage responses to pandemics like COVD-19, which has led to worldwide infection, overloads in health care systems, as well as damaged economies. These responses could include things like relaxing some guidelines for social distancing when masks are used. Social distancing 3 feet with a face mask is preferable to social distancing 6 feet with no face mask.

Making use of diagnostic tools widely used to understand how fluids move through the air, the distance that aerosols and droplets travel from individuals coughing and speaking in all directions was measured while wearing different kinds of masks and without wearing masks.

The study included 14 individuals between the ages of 21 and 31. Each individual simulated a cough and recited a phrase for 5 minutes with no mask, with a cloth mask, and with a disposable 3-layered surgical mask.

For measuring the particle velocity, planar particle imaging was used. For determining the behavior of airborne particles, an aerodynamic particle sizer was used. And a phase doppler interferometer was made use of for measuring the size of droplets, the velocity and volume flux at locations in a spray plume.

The airborne particle’s direction, behavior, and characteristics were measured as they traveled outward from the mouths of the individuals. It was discovered that a cloth mask reduced emissions in all directions to approximately 2 feet in comparison to the 4 feet of emissions produced while speaking or coughing with no mask on.

The reduction when using a surgical mask was even greater, the distance emissions from speaking and coughing traveled to approximately half a foot.

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