Coronavirus 2019 Health Orient Confidential

Covid-19 Knowledge Series 4

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The dictum in the use of masks is simple, my mask protects you; your masks protect me. It is for this reason we are ALL urged to wear even a basic form of facemask, like your handkerchief!

Time needed: 4 minutes.

A face mask actually means any object meant to cover a PART or ALL of the face. In the current context of Covid 19 however the highly sought face mask is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed and intended to be worn for many reasons : Hopefully good ones. Let’s get the facts straight.

  1. Mask filters Air Before it is Inhaled

    A face mask that covers the nose and mouth is capable of filtering AIR before it is inhaled and reduces as such dust and numerous other noxious particles that may otherwise access the airways and lungs. In medical jargon, this is referred to as ingress diminution.

  2. Protects Wearer from Simple Contaminants

    Face masks also protect the wearer from a host of other invisible contaminants in the air we breathe. Like infective spores, aerosolized microbes and toxic fumes.

  3. Protects People Around Wearer

    Face masks can protect the wearer to a good extent from acquiring unwholesome air or aerosol borne infective agents/contagion. However, less appreciated is the fact that they can very well protect others around the masked person who may be the origin of a transmissible pathogen by air. This purpose is called source control.

  4. Masks May Not Protect Wearer!

    Protecting the wearer is difficult. The type of masks that can protect a wearer are medical-grade respirator masks, properly fitted, and careful put on and taken off. Even with these specialized masks, the wearer has to take the above steps seriously otherwise it will defeat the purpose of the mask in protecting the wearer. If one wears a mask for a long time and thereafter view its inside and outside surfaces in a microscope, one will definitely find a host of microbes “festering” therein.

  5. Droplets Can Escape from Masks

    Face masks trap to various degrees droplets which the wearer may expel when coughing, sneezing, spitting and less obviously when speaking casually. These body fluids may directly transfer to another individual or indirectly via formites. Face masks reduce this risk substantially.

  6. Cloth Masks Protect Others

    Simple cloth masks especially those made of cotton offer the NON health worker some degree of protection but are very effective in lowering the transmission potential of any infective material from the wearer to OTHERS by as much as 99%! Egress diminution.

  7. Sophisticated Masks are for Health Workers

    The more sophisticated face masks are made for Health workers who on most occasions need protection from the “suspect” clients they attend to. Some of these masks have finer air filtration capability (e.g. N95), tighter/leak proof face fit, a more comfortable design and material selection. Some even have valves made to ease breath exhalation for the wearer but by so doing negates all the protection it offers to bystanders.

  8. Helps Wearer Avoid Touching Face

    One totally unappreciated role of the face mask is that it hinders the wearer from touching his/her face (especially the nose and mouth areas) as often as would have been without the mask.

  9. Watch Textile Used for Homemade Masks

    Homemade masks are becoming trendy, especially with the realization that they can be made to fit our clothes and become a fashion statement. Fine and good, BUT, the kind of textile matters. NON breathable materials are counterintuitive as the wearer can only breathe air that passes around the mask and not through. In this scenario much of the protective value for the wearer and others is lost.

  10. You Protect Me with Your Mask; I Protect You with Mine!

    The dictum in the use of masks is simple, my mask protects you; your masks protect me. It is for this reason we are ALL urged to wear even a basic form of facemask, like your handkerchief!

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Dr. Fintan Ekochin
Dr. Fintan C. Ekochin is a Consultant Neurologist and Physician

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