It is quite evident that the current times demand us to wear cloth face masks all the time. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all wear cloth masks in public places since there is increasing evidence that up to 25% of carriers who do not show any of the symptoms are spreading coronavirus to others.
Wearing masks is not only preventative for one’s own wellbeing but for others too since it reduces the risk of asymptomatic transmission who do not realise, they are infected and continue to spread the virus to others.
While the policy of wearing a mask is being strictly enforced by officials and largely adhered by the public, proper protection can only be ensured if the wearer has a properly fitted masked that provides two-fold protection.
Which then can protect the face from a large droplet released by someone’s cough, sneeze, or breath, that eventually comes down at the level of protection a mask provides, and the material used for it.
A N95 mask is a tight-fitting respirator mask that is properly fitted to the face and is able to block out small particle aerosols and large droplets (roughly 95% of airborne particles) through which the virus is typically transmitted.
However, a surgical mask which is made from a more porous material and has a looser fit than an N95 mask, is more effective at limiting the spread of droplets from coughs and sneezes coming from the wearer because it is highly permeable, it does not provide much protection against small virus particles.
In a recent study on the efficiency of facemasks in preventing acute respiratory infection surgical masks worn by patients with such infections (rhinovirus, influenza, seasonal coronavirus [although not SARS-CoV-2 specifically]) were found to reduce the detection of viral RNA in exhaled breaths and coughs.
Specifically, surgical facemasks were found to significantly decrease detection of coronavirus RNA in aerosols and influenza virus RNA in respiratory droplets. The detection of coronavirus RNA in respiratory droplets also trended downward.
Based on this study, the authors concluded that surgical face masks could prevent the transmission of human coronaviruses and influenza when worn by symptomatic persons and that this may have implications in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
In a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis, it was found that N95 respirators did not confer a significant advantage but could definitely be more effective when it compares to preventing asymptomatic individuals from spreading the virus.