As the public is being encouraged or required to wear masks when in proximity to others, you may be curious to know what experts believe they can and cannot do.
Masks can shield others from becoming infected if you have the virus. Such masks may avoid transmission to others, and this is their greatest social utility. Protecting the wearer is much more involved. Masks of a certain quality, construction and proper fit, must be worn, and taken on and off carefully. If a mask reduces a person’s risk of infection, the effect may be substantial. Fortunately, it is much easier to block transmission at the source, and even a simple cloth mask can prove beneficial.
A common way COVID-19 is transmitted is through the droplets that come out of the mouth and nose after coughing, sneezing, or even speaking. A portion of these droplets quickly evaporate, becoming tiny, easy to inhale particles. This is especially important for physicians and nurses that are exposed to sick individuals each day. Health staff are often at risk from procedures such as intubation, which produce very small particles capable of traveling large distances. The gear they wear must adhere to strict criteria to avoid the transmission of these foreign particles to the person wearing the gear.
A simple cloth mask, therefore, serves as an important barrier to keep from infecting others.
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