Explained: How Face Masks Slow Down COVID-19 Transmission

Professor Manhar Dhanak and his team's research study illustrates how different masks slow down the spread of COVID-19.

A research study illustrates how masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus. The study, published by Siddhartha Vermaa, John Frankenfield, and Manhar Dhanak of Florida Atlantic University, used fluid mechanics to illustrate the movement of the COVID-19 virus.

The study also evaluated which mask is the best to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The study states how aerosol droplets from your mouth, like cough droplets can travel when you wear different types of masks.

Also Read: Explained: Why N95 Masks With Valves Are Ineffective Against COVID-19

-Without a mask, droplets sometimes travel up to 12 feet far from the source when coughing or sneezing.
-A bandanna lets droplets travel up to 4 ft.
-Cotton masks, though, help cut the propulsion of droplets to literally 2 inches, making them the best ones to use


(Table courtesy research paper: Visualizing the effectiveness of face masks in obstructing respiratory jets)

Dhanak says the problem with COVID-19 particles is that they're carried through aerosols. Their study in fluid mechanics can help estimate the airborne path these aerosols can take.

Aerosol are tiny particles of water that are suspended in air. These include tiny respiratory droplets of cough that are projected into the air when a person sneezes, which might carry the COVID-19 virus if the person is infected.

This airborne transmission of the virus was so worrying that more than 200 scientists published an open letter to the World Health Organisation urging it to recognise the risks of airborne transmission via aerosols.

Face masks play an essential role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 through aerosol transmission. Not only do they protect the wearer from getting infected, but they also filter the air expelled by the wearer, and act as a barrier preventing the infected aerosols to be transmitted to another person.

Masks to prevent COVID-19 don't have to be expensive or a medical grade, cloth masks are as effective to stop the transmission of COVID, a recommendation that was backed by the WHO.

Dhanak also points out that a mask needs to be worn very snugly to be effective. "It has to be worn in such a way that droplets don't leak from the side," he said.

As people try and get back to their daily routines, Dhanak says it is important to wear a mask with more layers. "The more layers that there are in a mask, the better because you will have more protection. If 95% of the people wear masks then we can dramatically end the pandemic. This has to be followed along with social distancing and washing hands."

Also Read: No, WHO Did Not Do A U-Turn On Masks, Social Distancing

The team plans to to pursue more research on the effectiveness of masks, this time focusing on protection. "The next step we are taking is to understand if you are wearing a mask and someone is coughing, how much protection can the mask offer you against those aerosols? We're also looking at how different types of barriers in shops, different types of queuing will help provide additional protection in ending the pandemic," said Dhanak.

Other aspects the researchers are looking into include seeing how humidity affects the spread of the virus."Humidity slows down the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The ionisation of these aerosols also tends to combine small droplets combine to make bigger droplets and then they drop off," said Dhanak to BOOM.

Highlights
-Wearing a mask snugly helps prevent transmission of the disease.
-A two-layer fabric mask like a cotton handkerchief limits the transmission of the virus the best, ie, to 1 ft 3 inches.
-Humidity might slow down the spread of COVID-19 virus.

Catch the interview on YouTube or click on the link here.

Updated On: 2020-07-24T11:11:58+05:30
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